Updated: Jul 27, 2020
On Thursday Rasmus and I traveled from Copenhagen, Denmark to Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA (obviously in an essential travel-type situation) and we were so surprised by the trip. We have concluded that it was the best international flying experience we have ever had, despite taking 40 hours to get home and passing though five airports.
On our flight from Frankfurt, Germany to Newark, New Jersey there were 35 passengers including the crew and pilots on our Boeing 787 Dreamliner that can hold up to 315 people!
As a frequent traveler, this situation was an absolute dream. The flight attendants were so sweet, and said we could sleep anywhere and space out as we pleased. They also looked at my 6'4" athlete husband and doubled both of his meal portions.
Coronavirus Airport Mitigation
Upon booking our flights out of Denmark we were curious to see what kind of regulation we would experience. We went through five airports: CPH (Copenhagen, Denmark), FRA (Frankfurt, Germany), EWR (Newark, NJ, USA), HOU (Houston, TX, USA) and ABQ (Albuquerque, NM, USA).
And certainly the airports were a far cry from normal; it was very eerie. Firstly, security took us maybe five minutes. Inside the terminal many of the shops were noticeably closed, including cafes, restaurants and many bars. There were a few kiosks open with contactless pay. We walked over thousands of hashes along the ground marking 6 feet of distance-- in the check-bag area, in security, in kiosk lines as well as bag claim. In the airports in Europe they had roped off every other chair to force distancing.
Only in Newark airport did they required masks at all times (except for eating or drinking). Airports are so familiar to me, so to experience something so vastly sci-fi was kind of cool.
In Plane Experience
I honestly have no idea how doctors and nurses do it. We had to wear our masks for about 40 hours straight and I hated every minute. I don't know about you, but I feel claustrophobic and lethargic. Also the masks started hurting our ears after about 20 hours.
Inside all planes, masks were required. We flew first with Lufthansa and then United Airlines. The most crowded flight we had was from Copenhagen to Frankfurt, and almost every seat was filled. But in that flight I felt like not one single person opened their mouths; it was very tense to be so close to people mid-pandemic. If anyone coughed or sneezed everyone tensed up and looked at them LOL. It was not fun.
But on our eight-hour international flight, we felt very comfortable and safe! We had about ten plus empty rows in front and behind us, and we have never received better customer service. I believe the flight crew actually outnumbered the passengers.
In flight the attendants made announcements to promote social distancing and encourage people to keep their masks on at all times. They also went over the varying mandates required by the individual country, city or state that we were flying into. On some planes they blocked off middle seats attempting to create space.
USA Border Regulation
We did not know what to expect when we touched down in the USA. We knew that the borders are closed to all non-US citizens. On our international flight from Frankfurt to Newark we had to fill out the Center for Disease Control (CDC) form below. They wanted to know if we had been to Hubei Province in China, and if we had been to any of the restricted countries. We also received some different informational leaflets defining and educating us on COVID-19 and it's impact (as if we were unaware, hah).
But the de-planing was easy. They took our temperature once in Newark with a contactless thermometer, and let us go on our merry way. They did ask us to self-quarantine for 14 days and monitor our temperature everyday.
We are just happy to be home. It feels good to be surrounded by family. And we think it was a very unique experience. We don't expect to ever have that much space in an aircraft again!
I know the airlines are hurting which is sad. Some of the flight attendants expressed their anxiety about the situation, obviously lots of people are being laid off. They assured us a million times over that we were safe and that I did not need to Clorox seat backs and such. They are desperate for people to start flying again.
I think it is still a bit early to be flying around, and Rasmus and I will avoid it where we can this summer, for sure. On the plus side, I touched down in Albuquerque and the gas was priced $1.56 a gallon! We plan on having a few long road trips this summer.
Stay well everyone!