By Jason Sutio (22S06U)
Sometimes, it takes only one whining, always-complaining, attitude-only-a-mother-can-love child sitting across my seat to send a previously long-missed flight swiftly away from being missed. This time, add in several queues for a stick to be poked up your nose, a huge bill to be locked in a hotel room, and a long list of paperwork into the equation.
I stress that the following is accurate as of the time that I travelled; current measures may have changed. With that being said, let me take you through my experience of travelling during Covid-19.
Almost unsurprisingly, leaving Singapore was easy. All I had to prepare was my passport, ticket and a 48-hour certified PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test before heading to Changi Airport. Notably, the PCR was extremely nose-friendly, but extremely expensive.
Changi in November was actually more crowded than expected, but in a place where the ceiling cannot be touched even with a 5-human kabob, I couldn’t help but feel loneliness.
I realised that checking in must now be done manually. The check-in counter lady, with a customer service frown, clarified that auto check-in machines were used only for certain countries because the machines have not been adjusted to check for PCR tests.
At this point, I heard the lady behind the counter next to mine strongly insisting something. A girl’s PCR test was rejected because it was not certified and/or notarised. She looked on the verge of tears when she was asked to retake her test at Raffles Medical downstairs. I do not know if she had missed her flight, nor if she had to pay another $100. Either way, I would cry too.
Entering the Departure Hall, I was greeted by the glitter and glamour of Louis Vuitton. The majority of folks who were hustling and bustling were flight staff. Other than that, the Hall looked lonely too.
Many stalls were closed, or empty:
I wanted to grab a bite, but the food court was closed—open only for staff. Perhaps due to this, the lounge was still open and very popular. I refused to pay to enter. Boo-hoo, hungry is me.
This particular stall was closed off, yet there was someone still tending to it. I just had to capture its sheer absurdity.
I saw these little guys along the way to board the aeroplane. Perhaps Transformers might be coming alive sooner than we thought. They are cute though.
The flight back to my hometown was much more crowded than I anticipated. Packed, even. There was a one-seat spacing between strangers. The flight attendants were wearing full protection—mask, face shield, and gloves.
Through all the changes, some things remained familiar. In particular, the safety lady assured us that the plane will definitely not crash that day by showing all the things that can go wrong. Absolutely reassuring.
Another familiarity was the babies onboard. This seat (pictured below), in particular, held the child most [censored for civility, a quality the child has yet to learn]. Carnally, the mother thought so too.
“You want ice cream? Sit down nicely. Shut up you want mommy to punish you? You are [sic] good boy right?
“YEAH!”– The mother and her child
As the engine fired up for take off, I doze off, as usual. I woke up 20 minutes before landing. No, I did not wake up for the meal. No, I did not dream of the crying child. He was silent.
As we landed in Soekarno Hatta, the child immediately cried again. I planned to go buy some lottery tickets, because when else am I going to get this lucky?
Upon leaving the plane, we were guided to a waiting area. After an hour and 20 minutes (with slow wi-fi!), I was finally ushered to the immigration board and PCR test. Whereafter I waited for another 2 hours for the test results. Then, another wait for the cab to the hotel, and some more waiting for the check-in process. By then, it was near midnight but I was starving so I ordered and waited yet another hour for supper.
Then, I proceeded to wait at the hotel for 3 days. At the end of the 3 days, it was another test.
2 months back home flew by in a blink of an eye. Suddenly, it was almost January, and I had to process the flight details physically and emotionally.
Essentially, I had to change my flight to a VTL one—$80 in exchange for skipping the week-long quarantine—and apply for a Vaccinated Travel Pass. Then, book another (doctor-approved) PCR test 48-hours prior to flight. Pre-pay another on-arrival Covid-19 test. Book a VTL-approved hotel for one night to wait for the results. Prepare 5 sets of the Self-Test Kits. Pre-book appointments at a QTC for supervised self-administered tests for day 3 and 7 after arrival.
But with all items in the list checked, it was time to return to Singapore.
Next to me, there was a man trying to get into a VTL flight without a VTP pass. His bewilderment, anger and confusion was something to behold. His attendant explained that she would check: either he would not be able to get on the plane, or he would have to be quarantined for 7 days. Perhaps I am an omen of check-in disasters.
The flight to Singapore was nondescript, since all of the paperwork was taken care of prior to the flight.
However, the on-arrival test was hectic. I had to carry my baggage all through the queue. The queue was long, but not as long as what the available queue barriers would suggest.
Afterwards, I headed to the hotel to dutifully await my test results. My first dinner? The famous Beach Road Scissors Cut Curry Rice, since it was near the hotel. Truly a national icon.
Back in November, I did not want to return home, because questions like “What if I cannot return? What if there is another lockdown? What about the quarantine?” were plaguing my mind. Most pertinently, there was all the tedious paperwork and approvals that had to be handled.
Now, after meeting old folks, old places, and my parents after 2 years, whether the trip was worth the hassle or not, I can say I am glad to have come back.