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Welcome Home! Now Go Straight to Quarantine (or Not)



What’s it like traveling in the time of coronavirus? It depends where you’re going. Epidemic prevention and control measures for international arrivals vary greatly around the world, as New York Times journalists found while traveling in recent months. The severity of outbreaks is similarly varied, but stricter quarantine policies tend to correspond with lower case numbers.


Population: 7.5 million | Cases: About 5,300 | Deaths: 105

Hong Kong is not messing around. Since March, traveling there has meant accepting a 14-day quarantine, a tracking bracelet and a coronavirus test.

The semiautonomous Chinese territory is closed to almost everyone except residents, and a highly organized series of stations awaits arrivals at the airport. At the first one, health workers make sure travelers have filled out a health declaration form and downloaded the government’s StayHomeSafe app.

Next, the tracking bracelet is secured to your wrist. Then someone calls your phone to make sure the number on file is correct.

At another station you receive the quarantine order, along with an at-home test to be taken on Day 10 and a form for recording your temperature twice a day. Don’t have a thermometer? Here’s one for free.

Arriving passengers are sent for testing, where they stand in private cubicles and spit into specimen bottles. (“Make a ‘kruuua’ noise,” the instructions suggest.) Anyone who tests positive is sent to a hospital; their close contacts are quarantined.

Passengers who land in the morning have to wait at the airport all day for their test results. But since my flight arrived late, we were taken to a hotel for the night, where we each got a dinner box and an electronic key card good for one use only. After receiving a negative result the next day, we were allowed to check out.

Once at home or a hotel, quarantined residents open the phone app and walk around the perimeter to map its boundaries. The app may at any time ask you to scan the QR code on your bracelet to verify your location, and officials might conduct random checks by phone or in person. Violating the quarantine order can mean fines or imprisonment.

Those in quarantine are not permitted to go out for groceries or a walk or even to take out the garbage — you order everything online or ask friends for help. You just keep yourself busy inside your tiny Hong Kong apartment, counting down the days.

Breezing Through

Population: 8.4 million | Cases: About 264,000 | Deaths: Almost 24,000

In August, I moved back to New York from Hong Kong with my family. We didn’t know what to expect at Kennedy Airport, but we were ready to navigate whatever safety measures we found.

What we found was nothing, other than one of the quickest trips through the U.S. immigration process we’ve ever experienced in years abroad. No temperature checks. No travel history or contact information paperwork. No order or even suggestion to voluntarily quarantine for two weeks. No apparent enforcement of mask discipline for incoming travelers (though only a few were obviously flouting it).

The only check came at the very end, when the immigration officer perfunctorily asked me whether we had traveled abroad anywhere other than Hong Kong over the previous two weeks. I said no, and he said, “Welcome home.”

Burden of Proof

Population: 9 million | Cases: About 30,000 | Deaths: 444

When I flew back to Tokyo from San Francisco in June, Japan’s borders were closed to travelers from more than 100 countries, so the only people arriving were a smattering of Japanese citizens or foreign residents with special exemptions to leave and return after a family emergency — in my case, the death of my father.

The flight had been relatively empty, but to maintain social distancing, flight attendants asked passengers to disembark in small groups. We filled out some forms, had our temperatures taken and shuffled into a waiting area before being called into cubicles for our nasal swab tests.

Clearing customs took nearly an hour while officials checked my documents, including my father’s death certificate and a letter from the funeral home director. They asked me to prove our family relationship, so I frantically texted my husband to send me a digital copy of my birth certificate.

After I retrieved my luggage, I was escorted to an unused baggage hall where cardboard cubicles had been set up for arriving passengers to wait to be picked up. I would be required to quarantine at home for 14 days and had to attest that I would not use public transit to get back to my family’s apartment in central Tokyo. The cubicles contained makeshift cardboard beds for those forced to wait overnight. When my ride arrived, the escort walked me to the curb to confirm that I was not getting into a taxi, which was considered a form of prohibited public transit.

At home, my family had set up an isolation chamber in the bedroom with my desk and our exercise bike nestled by the window. It was a week before I received a call from a local public health center confirming that I was staying inside. The clerk was about to hang up when I asked her about my test results. “Oh, yes,” she said. “You’re negative.”

Hard to Get Home

Population: 5 million | Cases: About 4,400 (statewide) | Deaths: 53 (statewide)

Australia has restricted the number of international travelers who can arrive each day, so my first impression on arriving at Sydney’s Kingsford Smith Airport was one of eerie emptiness. I counted myself lucky not to be among the many Australians stranded abroad after their tickets were suddenly canceled by airlines enforcing the cap on arrivals.

Passengers shuffled off the plane, joking among ourselves about where we would spend the next two weeks. Australia requires travelers to quarantine for 14 days in government-assigned hotels, which could mean a grim room near the airport or a five-star room overlooking Sydney Harbor.

After living through the pandemic in China, where people wore masks as a matter of course, it was unnerving for me to see Sydney airport workers without masks, which are not compulsory in most parts of Australia. Would we be safe? Would they be safe? Masked medical workers took our details and temperatures, rattling off a series of questions: Any fever, coughing, other possible signs of the virus?

We passed through immigration and picked up our luggage. Still no hints of where we were being sent. Police officers pointed us to lines of waiting buses; families on one bus, solo travelers on another. We climbed aboard, and after some prodding the driver told us that we wouldn’t know our hotel until we arrived — the authorities didn’t want us phoning our families to meet us there and risk infections.

A stroke of good fortune: The bus stopped in front of a luxury hotel overlooking Hyde Park in the city center. But the soldiers chaperoning us to our rooms were a reminder that this was no holiday. I had enough experience with quarantine already this year — three stretches locked in hotel rooms in Beijing, Hong Kong and once before in Sydney — to know how to cope: keep busy with work, stick to a routine, exercise.

Still, the days began to drag. I waited each day for the tap on the door at meal times.

A Matter of Trust

Population: 10 million | Cases: About 5,300 | Deaths: 57

South Korea certainly takes its virus control measures seriously — though they are not airtight.

After arriving at Incheon Airport, we were guided through a series of checkpoints, including one where we were asked to download an app on which we were to record any symptoms for the next 14 days. Agents made us show that we had downloaded the app before allowing us to proceed to the baggage area.

Most foreign nationals arriving in South Korea have to quarantine for 14 days in a designated facility, sometimes with angry protesters banging drums outside. But I had an exemption for work reasons, and my family was allowed to serve their quarantine in a hotel.

In the airport, an employee gave my wife the address of the government health office closest to our hotel, and directed her and our children to one of the specially designated “disinfection taxis, ” that transport new arrivals to the country.

After arriving at their hotel, my wife and children discovered the biggest hole in South Korea’s system. They were allowed to walk, unaccompanied, to the local health office for their coronavirus tests. They resisted the urge to dash into a convenience store for chocolate milk.

The next day, my wife got a call saying she and our children had tested negative. She would get a call every day for two weeks from the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention asking if they had any symptoms. And, just to confirm it, she had to fill out the app every day attesting to their well-being. It was essentially the honor system.

At noon on Day 15 of quarantine, my family walked past the hotel’s hallway CCTV camera and out into the open air of Seoul, with no additional tests required.


Population: About 1 million | Cases: About 132,000 (nationally) | Deaths: 230 (nationally)

In September, the long-delayed Afghan peace talks were finally held in Doha, the capital of Qatar. The country requires international arrivals to quarantine for at least seven days, but an exception was made for the large Afghan delegation. Instead, negotiators and journalists traveling from Kabul were tested for the coronavirus multiple times before their flight.

All residents and visitors in Qatar are required to use an app called Ehteraz (Arabic for “precaution”) that shows their color-coded health status. Malls, offices, hotels and other public places won’t let people enter unless their status is green, or healthy. If your status is yellow, meaning you’re supposed to be in quarantine, or red, meaning you are infected, the app alerts others nearby.

After the opening ceremony at the Sheraton hotel, negotiators were allowed to move about Doha freely, while journalists were asked not to leave the hotel until seven days had passed. At that point we were tested again, and once the result came back negative, our status on the app turned green and we could go out in public.

A Normal Journey

Population: 9 million | Cases: About 40,000 | Deaths: 6,885

Before I left Hong Kong for London, where a second wave of infections is building, I had to fill out a form telling the British government that I hadn’t traveled anywhere else in the previous 14 days. I assumed this was just the beginning of what would be a highly unusual travel experience.

Wrong. That was just about the last time the virus was a factor in my trip, aside from wearing a mask on the flight and being extra careful about opening the lavatory door with a paper towel.

There were no forms to be filled out upon arrival at Heathrow Airport. No temperature checks, no tests, no instructions — I just waltzed through customs and the baggage claim and looked for the taxi stand, just as with any other voyage. The only apparent restriction was requiring passengers older than 11 to wear masks inside the terminals.

The baffling convenience prepared me for life in London, where mask use is much more sporadic than in Hong Kong. I found myself in an unimaginable situation: wishing my airport experience had been a little more complicated.

By: The New York Times
Title: Welcome Home! Now Go Straight to Quarantine (or Not)
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Published Date: Wed, 28 Oct 2020 09:00:26 +0000

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What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?




People have always liked to drink on board flights, especially people from Australia. Therefore, it should be no surprise to anyone that there was an inflight bar offering in the 1970s.

Ansett Airlines were a major player in the Australian domestic market up until their demise in September 2001. For many years, there were two domestic airlines, Trans-Australia Airlines (TAA) and Ansett.

Ansett’s Inflight Bar

At the time, Ansett operated Boeing 727s, Douglas DC-9s and Fokker F27 Friendships on domestic routes in the country. Airline tickets were quite expensive, with tariffs agreed upon by both airlines thanks to Australia’s weird two-airline policy at the time.

While tickets were expensive and food complimentary, you still had to pay for a drink at the bar. Here is an inflight bar menu from the era, showing the drinks available and their prices.

Clearly the pricing is astounding by today’s standards – 30 cents for a beer? I’ll have thirty-three please! I like how Australian gin is 35c while the imported gin is just 5c more. Which would you choose?

You can tell it is from another era as you can buy cigarettes on board. These price up at 45c, a far cry from the extortionate prices people in the west pay these days for a smoke!

Overall Thoughts

The on board offering is pretty comprehensive for internal flights, and I imagine you’d be hard pressed not to find something you might like. In those times, all payments would have been by cash as well, which would have meant a lot of coinage being handled on board.

Of course, things haven’t changed too much over the years. On many airlines you pay for your drinks just as they did back in the 1970s. Shame the prices aren’t the same of course!

Did you ever buy drinks on board flights from the inflight bar back in the day? Do you still? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by Daniel Tanner on via Wikimedia Commons.
Menu image by Ikara on Australian Frequent Flyer.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?
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Published Date: Thu, 19 Nov 2020 15:03:14 +0000

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These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?




The shrimp stop swimming at dusk and gather near the river’s edge. After sunset, they begin to climb out of the water. Then they march. All night long, the inch-long crustaceans parade along the rocks.

The parading shrimp of northeastern Thailand have inspired legends, dances and even a statue. (Locals also eat them.) During the rainy season, between late August and early October, tourists crowd the riverbanks with flashlights to watch the shrimp walk.

Watcharapong Hongjamrassilp first learned about the parading shrimp, and the hundred thousand or more tourists who come each year to see them, about 20 years ago. When he started studying biology, he returned to the topic. “I realized that we know nothing about this,” he said: What species are they? Why and how do they leave the safety of the water to walk upstream on dry land? Where are they going?

Mr. Hongjamrassilp, a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, decided to answer those questions himself. His findings appeared this month in the Journal of Zoology.

Working with wildlife center staff members, Mr. Hongjamrassilp staked out nine sites along a river in Thailand’s Ubon Ratchathani province. They found shrimp parading at two of the sites — a stretch of rapids, and a low dam.

The videos they recorded revealed that the shrimp paraded from sundown to sunup. They traveled up to 65 feet upstream. Some individual shrimp stayed out of the water for 10 minutes or more.

“I was so surprised,” Mr. Hongjamrassilp said, “because I never thought that a shrimp can walk that long.” Staying in the river’s splash zone may help them keep their gills wet, so they can keep taking in oxygen. He also observed that the shells of the shrimp seem to trap a little water around their gills, like a reverse dive helmet.

DNA analysis from captured shrimp showed that nearly all belonged to the species Macrobrachium dienbienphuense, part of a genus of shrimp that live mostly or fully in freshwater. Many Macrobrachiumspecies spend part of their lives migrating upstream to their preferred habitats.

Most parading shrimp that Mr. Hongjamrassilp captured were young. Observations and lab experiments showed that these shrimp probably leave the water when the flow becomes too strong for them. Larger adult shrimp can handle a stronger current without washing away, so they’re less likely to leave the water.

Walking on land is dangerous for the little shrimp, even under cover of darkness. Predators including frogs, snakes and large spiders lurk nearby, Mr. Hongjamrassilp says. “Literally, they wait to eat them along the river.”

And the shrimp can survive on land for only so long. If the parading crustaceans lose their way, they may dry out and die before they get back to the river. A few times, Mr. Hongjamrassilp came across groups of lost shrimp dead on the rocks, their once-translucent bodies baked pink.

Yet most navigate upstream successfully, and scientists have spotted other freshwater shrimp around the world performing similar feats, scaling dams and even climbing waterfalls.

Leaving the water when the swimming gets tough may have helped these animals spread to new habitats over their evolutionary history, Mr. Hongjamrassilp said. Today, the number of parading shrimp in Thailand seems to be declining. He thinks tourist activity may be a factor, and learning more about the shrimp might help protect them.

The study’s authors made “some really excellent observations,” said Alan Covich, an ecologist at the University of Georgia who was not involved in the research. But understanding why the Ubon Ratchathani shrimp move upstream, and how far they travel, will require more research, he said.

“The most surprising thing to me was that it attracted so many tourists,” Dr. Covich said. He doesn’t know of any other example of people gathering to appreciate a crustacean in quite the same way.

“We have crayfish festivals, we have all kinds of things,” Dr. Covich said, “but generally it’s people eating them, not watching them move.”

By: Elizabeth Preston
Title: These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?
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Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 17:02:07 +0000

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Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?




There are reports that Aer Lingus have applied for 1,500 slots at Manchester Airport for the Summer 2021 season. This will allow the airline to base four aircraft there and service flights to the United States.

At present, there have been no press releases from the airline stating what is going on. Even so, it probably makes sense for the Irish airline to do this in the current market.

Aer Lingus And Manchester

From what is known, there will be three Airbus A321LRs and an A330 based at Manchester. These will operate non-stop services to New York JFK, Boston, Chicago and Orlando, and the season starts on 28 March 2021.

With Thomas Cook having gone out of business, there is likely space for another competitor. New York and Orlando will see competition from Virgin Atlantic, while the other two routes have no airline flying at the moment.

Aer Lingus has been connecting passengers over Dublin very successfully from the UK regions for a while now. Due to this, they will have visibility on traffic patterns, potential yields and more, making this an informed decision.

I imagine they also hope to cream off some of the connecting traffic that routes through London Heathrow on British Airways and Amsterdam on KLM among others. It would prove to be quite successful.

Transatlantic Joint Venture Approval

The US Department of Transport has tentatively given its approval for Aer Lingus to join the oneworld transatlantic joint business. This is operated by American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia and Finnair.

These airlines coordinate schedules and pricing, share revenues and expenses. For the consumer, it means more choice – those making a booking on British Airways across the Atlantic will also see options on American Airlines on the BA web site as one example.

Theoretically, it would allow people seeking flights on the British Airways web site to automatically be given options to fly non-stop with Aer Lingus, along with the Manchester-London Heathrow-US city connecting itinerary.

Whether Aer Lingus will join the oneworld alliance, even in a oneworld connect capacity remains to be seen. Frequent flyers would welcome it, especially those in Ireland.

Overall Thoughts

No doubt the boffins have been working behind the scenes to see if the business case for transatlantic flights from Manchester stack up. As things have proceeded as far as a slot application, I would guess chances are good that it will go ahead.

Either way, let’s see if this happens and if it does, whether Aer Lingus will stay for the long haul. If they can make more money elsewhere, they’ll up sticks and leave. Regardless, it is an interesting development in European aviation.

What do you think of Aer Lingus starting transatlantic services from Manchester? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

To never miss a post, follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
All my flight and lounge reviews are indexed here so check them out!

Featured image by N509FZ via Wikimedia Commons.
Aer Lingus A321neo LR by Pitmanaaron via Wikimedia Commons.
Business class cabin via One Mile At A Time.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?
Sourced From:
Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 18:03:48 +0000

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