Travelling flying through the Covid19 2nd wave. Part 3: Europe to Asia 2021
Updated: Feb 23
Around the start of January 2021, during the second wave of the virus, I flew back to Asia. The virus had already started to mutate and the different variants were just being discovered. These were bad news so I had to leave before countries would start closing borders again or impose stricter measures and tests. The first legs I flew again with Qatar Airways and the last leg (next post) with Korean Air.
Depending on your destination it was very likely that you would need a Covid19 negative test in order to take your flights. My final destination was Japan which required a negative test at least 72 hours before boarding (and they would test me again upon arrival plus quarantine). That test had to be quite specific (PCR) and they also provided their own result paper to be filled (in Japanese and English) which had details about how exactly the test was done.
Athens international airport Eleftherios Venizelos had a bit more traffic than when I used it during the 1st Covid19 wave in mid-2020. But still few people and almost all the shops were closed. During the check-in there were many passengers who had problems with their Covid19 test (sometimes it was not written in English etc.). I had a problem as well, the test center (private) which did my test, provided me with two result papers, the Japanese one (which I provided after checking with the Japanese embassy), and their own. The guy in the airport check-in told me there was a problem as the two papers didn't write the exact identical way of testing, referring mostly to the Greek/English paper of the hospital. He told me that if I didn't have the Japanese/English paper they wouldn't let me fly but still he didn't want to take responsibility. So he called somebody in higher position. The woman in charge asked me if it would be possible for me to go back to the test center to re-write their own paper to be identical of the Japanese one - when my flight was to depart in a couple of hours. I told her that would be impossible and that Japan only needs the Japanese paper so I would be permitted entry. She was kind enough to let it go and allow me to take the flight. And the other guy, who caused me the problem from the start, when I went back to check in, he mentioned her name and that she gave the OK for me to proceed. As if saying "it's alright, if something happens, it will be her responsibility".
The flight from Athens to Doha with Qatar Airways was almost full, people going to various destination all over the world. But the seat arrangement was done pretty well, trying not to mingle the passengers and have as many empty seats between groups as possible. This time we were not provided with a face shield as when I flew in mid-2020 but we were given the usual protective kit with a mask, disposable gloves and hand sanitizer. There seemed that the vegetarian meal I had selected was somehow not in their list but the crew managed to find something without meat for me to eat.
Landing in Doha Hamad international airport, Qatar, I immediately felt that it was much busier than the previous time here during the first wave in mid-2020. Thousands of passengers and many shops were open, for the first time I felt I was in a busy airport. Of course everybody with masks, not really keeping social distance but our body temperature was checked here and there.
Although most of the restaurants were open, I happened to visit a food court with snacks and beverages - no proper food -, it was operational but completely empty!
I was delighted to see Harrods tea room to be open, 24h! As I had a long stopover in Doha it was the best place to eat some good food and relax, after having experienced so many airports before with all the restaurants and shops closed. Plus it would be my first time to experience Harrods, even being in Doha! Definitely on my list the next time I visit the UK!
Hamad international airport is the only airport in the world at the moment that has a Harrods Tea Room! It opened in mid-December 2019.
My next stop would be in Incheon South Korea where I would spend the night in the airport, having just discovered a new virus variant in the country, I wasn't sure if the restaurants would be open so I had decided to eat some good food in Doha.
Of course I had to taste Harrods epic tea, a quinoa salad, pasta, fish n chips, were all really delicious! You scan a QR code and you have the menu in your mobile. Prices were not more expensive than any other eatery in the airport so if you have decided to eat something while here, this is an excellent choice.
After food I went to one of the edges of the airport where there were very few people around, a good place to relax and wait until my gate would be open. Security seemed quite active (but always very polite) as they came to ask whey I was there all alone and that I could make use of the rest areas if I wanted to have a good rest.
Soon I was boarding my next flight with Qatar Airways, going to Incheon South Korea!
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