Flying in times of COVID

I arrived at the airport alone and a little sad because I couldn’t have the “after check-in coffee” with my parents. They would always come with me to the airport and wait until I checked in my bags to head to a coffee shop on the second floor where we had coffee and desserts before I passed through security.
I was already kind of anxious because I had to take connecting flights before my final destination: Playa del Carmen in México.
But before I continue, let me tell you a little about how this journey was planned.

I’d bought a direct flight from Lima to Mexico City and was looking forward to my trip until the Peruvian government decided that Mexico wouldn’t be on the list of countries we could fly to because it didn’t meet the new requirement, the flight had to be four hours long tops. But why? I don’t know, it doesn’t make sense to me, what’s the difference between four hours and six anyway?
Well, the most reasonable thing to do was to have a stopover in Quito, so I had to change my flight Lima-Mexico city to Quito-Mexico City and then buy my ticket from Lima to Quito. So my itinerary was scheduled as follows:
Quito-México City
México City-Cancun
On top of the new ticket I had to buy–which cost me about 220 dollars–I had to comply with another requirement “a COVID test”. Local policies require you to be tested for COVID-19 before you’re allowed to enter some countries, another expense! I had to get that test, and not the cheap one—because there are two, a fast, useless, cheap test and a reliable, expensive one, the one I had to get.
Another 100 dollars later, I was walking out of the clinic hoping I tested negative. Even though I’d been careful, worked from home and limited my interactions to my parents and fluffy Rabito (my cat), I still thought that the virus might have managed to break into my home. The experience was disgusting, I sort of knew, though. Nobody explained the procedure as accurately as my good friend, Brigitte, who warned me, “they are going to stick a gigantic Q tip into your nostrils until they reach your brains, then they’ll slowly take it out”, and that’s exactly what they did.

Not only was the result of that test what kept me anxious, but also the possibility of the result not being sent on time, since the test had to be taken within 72 hours prior to my flight. I took it exactly three days before but I’d never relied on businesses to get things done on time in Peru.

OK Ayleen, now you have taken the test and bought the new ticket, you are ready, right?
No, not ready, not yet. They won’t let you in Mexico unless you show evidence that you will leave the country after your vacations, and that evidence comes in the form of… another ticket!
Really? Leaving Perú suddenly became a menace to my life savings.
The problem was I didn’t want to come back to Peru. So I had to get another ticket to a different destination, the new plan was:
Quito-Mexico City
México City-Cancun
Atlanta-The Netherlands
Why the Netherlands? No idea, I just needed a ticket that said I would leave the country, I could change my plans later.

Back to the airport. There I was, looking for the LATAM check-in counter. I naively placed myself at the end of what seemed to be the line to check in my bag, well, it wasn’t. The line was so long that it continued on the opposite side. It’s OK Ayleen, you arrived on time, there’s nothing to worry about. One hour and thirty minutes later, there was a lot to worry about. I still wasn’t in the front and my plane was leaving in 40 minutes.

I didn’t remember the last time I felt sorry for so many people in one day.
I felt sorry for the girl in front of me, who was told she couldn’t board the plane because she didn’t have the face shield, until I overheard her say “I didn’t know, nobody told me”, then I didn’t feel so sorry. Was she trying to give an excuse? or had she been living in a cave? I felt sorry for the nun who was handing her phone to the ticket agent in an attempt to have the person on the other line explain what she couldn’t explain herself. They were speaking Spanish, but the nun didn’t seem to understand what the agent was saying, to the point that she needed a Spanish-Spanish interpreter. The agent gently said “we are not allowed to take calls” and tried to explain in an airport-for-dummies sort of fashion that she couldn’t check in that bag. Finally, I felt sorry for the new naive guys that, like me, placed themselves at what they thought was the end of the line not noticing that the line was so long that it was broken into two. I remember thinking “I’m so happy I’m not you guys” and gave a sigh of relief, which only lasted until I turned around and faced reality, I was nowhere near the front. Missing my flight became a possibility. Then I felt sorry for myself, too.

I finally got to the check-in counter and the person in charge demanded my covid test, which I had, and the entry immigration form to be turned in in Mexico, which I also had. And then she asked for my return ticket. This is how the conversation went:
Me: What do you mean by return ticket—knowing exactly what a return ticket was but denying the fact that I missed a requirement to get on that plane.
Her: A ticket that shows you’ll come back to Peru
Me: But I don’t know when I’m coming back.
Her: How can you not know
Me: I am a digital nomad, I only buy one-way tickets.
Her: I don’t understand.
Me: I don’t want to come back.
Her: You have to come back.
Me: I’m not staying in my destination, Mexico, if that’s the problem (I knew they had sent people back from Mexico under suspicion of overstaying). I continued, I know I can’t stay in Mexico, I’m going as a tourist for a couple of weeks, in fact I have plans to go to Amsterdam afterwards (I showed her my ticket to Amsterdam).
Her: It says Atlanta here.
Me: That’s the connecting flight.
Her: So you don’t know when you’re coming back.
Me: I have no idea when I’m coming back! (this time breathing heavily and getting a little impatient). What’s the problem?
Her: Let me consult it with my boss.
Me: It’s late and I’m going to miss my flight!
Her: OK, it’s fine, you can go, and run! You don’t have much time left before your flight departs.

Now I’m on the plane writing this. I’ve just realized I hadn’t written on my blog during isolation, I guess I had little or nothing to write about, life happens outside!

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