There was a time when travel plans were decided without giving much thoughts. Times have changed quickly.
Travel in the last two years has its own fair share of challenges and to add to this, if it is an international travel to a different continent then it requires ample deliberation and planning.
So after a hiatus of 20 months, I finally decided to take a flight. Ireland to India, two countries with lot in common right from the color of the national flags. When everything looks to go as per the plans, the onset of a new variant made me think: it is is going to be ‘Oh My Chronicle‘.
So here goes the details of the journey :-
The flight was Emirates, afternoon flight from Dublin. I traveled with my wife and our 5 years old daughter.
Travel Day -2 :
A trip to one of the Emirates authorized RT PCR test centre: Randox Health. Cost: 59 Euros per person. The swabs were given and we were out in 15 minutes. By midnight, the anxiety of the test results make you refresh the email every 30 minutes.
Travel Day -1 :
The email refresh frequency moved to a 10 minutes interval. My wife got her results first. For the first time in life , seeing the word ‘negative‘ gave a really happy feeling. It took another 2 hours for my daughter’s results to come out. Another negative. By now I had gone to 5 minutes refresh mode. Finally I started checking every minute and got my ‘negative’ result after another hour (It took 24 hours for my results to come out after swab collection).
Up until this point, all the bags were left open and half packed. The action began now. I was not sure if it was the excitement to meet family and friends or the literal euphoria of clearing the test results, butterflies were flying in my stomach.
Emirates web check in was completed first as the seat numbers are required to be filled in Air Suvidha form. So if you are planning to make a seat change then it has to be done before filling up Air Suvidha form.
Air Suvidha Form: All basic details to be filled and also need to upload a copy of the negative RTPCR test, passport, vaccination certificate. There is an option to select the number of passengers traveling with you. So you can complete for the family in the same page but all details have to be entered for each passenger (File names of the documents that has to be uploaded should not have any space / special characters). Once it was completed then there is a submit option. After submitting the form, received an email from New Delhi airport. A print out / soft copy of this form needs to be carried for the travel. Suggest to carry a print out of all the uploaded documents – RT PCR test result, vaccination certificate, Air Suvidha acknowledgement form.
Travel Day (5th Dec, 2021):
The weather was nice. After a few cloudy days, the Sun was shining bright. At the ticket counter, RT PCR test and Air Suvidha documents were checked . The boarding was smooth but not much of social distancing. Cannot actually complain about it as everyone is excited / anxious and for a change was happy to see the good old habits of travelers at the airport ;).
The flight was on a Sunday and being a football fan, at the back of the mind I had the list of matches I would miss watching. But thanks to the live screening of Premier League games by Emirates and courtesy Sports 24, I could watch two games. Emirates handed out a small travel bag souvenir to my daughter along with a coloring book and pencils. So she was also happy. Airlines also had enough number of movies collection for my wife to watch. Happy family, Happy Journey. An add on was the Insta Click photo of the kids done by Emirates inside the flight. The photo handed over in a nice photo jacket.
The flight landed on time at Dubai. The connecting flight was after 3.5 hours.
We cleared the security check and proceeded. Can’t miss a walk around the Dubai Duty Free shops. We had food from Urban Street – they had Pav Bhaji, Pasta, Kadak Chai. Food quality was good though the Chai gave us a nostalgic feel of traveling in the Indian Railways :).
Our connecting flight was from section C. There are few restaurants including a Food Village serving Indian food, Heineken ‘lounge’, KFC, McDonalds, etc. in section C. Only boarding pass was checked at Dubai.
Dubai – Mumbai flight was on time. Two forms were handed out in the flight.
We landed 5 minutes before time in Mumbai. We got down from the aircraft by 8:20 am and were given one more health declaration form. By now I almost had a book of documents. Since it was a morning arrival, the international arrival counters were not crowded. Enough Immigration counters were open. We cleared the immigration in less than 5 minutes. We then proceeded to collect our baggage. It took another 20 minutes for the baggage to arrive. After collecting the baggage, cleared the custom check point and walked towards exit.
RT PCR in Mumbai
Once you reach the exit point, there are people stationed to check your boarding pass and ask for your first country / origin of departure. I understand that all European passengers were asked to go for the RT PCR test. There is a lift to go to level P4, where the test centers are available. There were 4 agencies / labs – Suburban, Lifenity, Acu-MDX (Mylabs) and Metropolis.
Regular RT PCR test cost is 600 INR and rapid RT PCR test is 3900 INR. Regular test results come out in 8-10 hours and rapid in 1-2 hours. We had a connecting flight to Bhopal in the evening. But we were not sure if the regular test results will come out on time. So we chose rapid RT PCR. There was a challenge. We were told that rapid RT PCR can be done only 4-5 hours before the departure time of connecting flight. So we had no option other than to wait for 5 hours. Chairs were available to sit next to the counters. The worry point was that , most of the people waiting there had already given their samples and are relaxed now. We still had to make sure that we do not get infected during this 5 hours wait. All of us were hungry and tired as well. So decided to check in to Niranta Hotel. It is right next to RT PCR centers. They have buffet breakfast for walk in customers also. We took a room (6000 INR for a day) and moved in there. A great sigh of relief after removing the masks after almost 20 hours. The room is small with basic amenities. But considering the current situation, it was blessing in disguise. We had a good sleep for 4-5 hours. Rapid RT PCT test was done at 3 pm (payment mode – both card and cash were accepted) and got our ‘negative’ results by 4 pm. No rt pcr test was mandated for our daughter. So we did not have to do a testing for her.
You have to show the test results to the personnel sitting at the exit of level P4 to come out ( no other forms were asked). We exited and took the lift to P10 to move to departure terminal. So literally you come out of the airport and again go inside the airport during this process.
Overall it was well organized by CSMIA (Mumbai Airport).
Indigo flight to Bhopal : Check happened without much hassles. Only ID proofs were asked. We then moved to security check. The moment I was asked to raise both my hands by the security officer for the check, I felt like coming out of the crucification, purified and closer to resurgence. All done and dusted, tired and set for the resurgence / revival.
The flight was almost going to take off but had to turn around for rectifying a ‘technical glitch’. But we took off after a slight delay, had pre ordered meal and was served in the flight (super tasty paneer sandwich & coffee, courtesy Indigo). Landed at Bhopal in the night. We got out of the airport (no checks) and reached home safe.
Got a call next day morning from the Bhopal Covid Center and they enquired basic details. I think there will be a check after the 7th day as well.
One thing I realized after been out amidst travelers from across the globe for almost 32 hours:
There are still many who either do not wear mask / wear mask as an accessory / partial masks. It is up on ourselves to mask up as much as possible and keep sanitizing. It gets even scary when you are inside the flight when you hear people coughing, sneezing, etc. Only way out is to keep the focus, stay positive, come out of all this and get a negative test result.
Be Negative, Think Positive 🙂
Tip: Wear the headsets as soon as you occupy the seats in the aircraft and start listening to anything in high volume. This will ensure that you do not hear other people coughing or sneezing . So it will give you less anxious moments especially when eating your food and helps to avoid the turning around to check if the person is sitting close to you :).