With a frown, passengers watch the stranger cling to them
- 17 June, 2020
Reporter Carlijne Vos took the first fully booked flight to Athens after air traffic restarted. As usual, passengers stuff themselves like sardines in the fully booked Boeing 737-700. The corona measures do not apply in the air.
It is desolate at Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam this early Tuesday morning, a day after European air traffic has partly started up. One desk has been opened in the lifeless departure hall, where the ground staff take in the luggage from behind thick plastic slabs. Travelers stand exemplary at the indicated one and a half metre distance lines in the queue with their mouth caps on.
At half past six, when boarding the first KLM flight to Athens, the discipline is quickly lost. A call to hand-in cabin baggage so that passengers are not unnecessarily clumped in the aisle, appears on deaf ears on board. As usual, passengers stuff themselves like sardines in the fully booked Boeing 737-700. The one and a half meter rule does not apply in the air, nor the ban on gathering that sports clubs, catering entrepreneurs and cultural institutions must adhere to.
With a frown, passengers look from above their mouth masks at the unknown neighbor who clings to them. "Are we being tested on arrival now?" Nikos Politis asks his neighbors in his tight back row seat. He came to the Netherlands six years ago during the Greek economic crisis to work there and has not seen his family for three months. Two weeks in quarantine is the last thing he wants.
Everyone is confused, as it appears in the queue when boarding. "We have to go on to Thessaloniki," said Greek student Alex, who came from Edinburgh with his British girlfriend. "It will take us 16 hours to get home. Normally it is 3 hours. If we have to be quarantined, it will take even longer. "KLM staff are also in the dark. "Each country has its own rules and they are actually constantly changing," said a flight attendant.
Greece officially opened the tourist season on Monday. Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis traveled to the scenic tourist island of Santorini last weekend to broadcast the news. And not without reason. The Greek economy relies for almost 20 percent on tourism. The severe lockdown that Greece already introduced on March 15 and that made the country came off relatively mercifully has cut deeply with the Greeks.
Now Greece wants to show that it is safe for tourists. All travelers are tested for corona on arrival and quarantined at a hotel for 24 hours pending the results. Or so it sounded first. That promise was withdrawn a day later. Travelers must self-quarantine for 24 hours at their own expense. Or not? On Monday evening, KLM reports that the rules have changed and that travelers must complete a covid-19 form upon arrival in Athens, with which they can be traced.
The website of the Greek airline Aegean Airlines offers more insight: Travelers from low-risk countries, including Luxembourg and Germany, are randomly tested, travelers from high-risk countries, including the Netherlands, all. If all goes well, testing will be abolished on July 1 and citizens outside the EU will also be able to enjoy Greek beaches and culture again.
The 18-year-old novice models Iné van der Meer and Noortje van Hoek pack it in. They have no fear of corona. They are mainly busy with the modeling work that their agent in Athens might have in store for them. "That is very exciting. You usually only hear it a day in advance, "says Van Hoek. "We would be going to Greece much earlier. As soon as we heard that the border opened on June 15, we booked, "says Van der Meer. "We just sat there doing nothing at home."
A somewhat scruffy older man without a mask is shuffling down the aisle to the toilets. An elderly woman with the mouth mask slid down, picks up a sleeping toddler's mask from the floor and lovingly puts it on his face.
Cup of water
The flight attendants do not pay attention to the questionable hygiene practices of their passengers and continue to chat. They have little to do, as distributing meals and drinks is prohibited. Each chair has a Delft blue KLM basket with a mini sandwich, syrup cake and a bowl of water.
Passengers must disembark the waste themselves. Flight attendants are briefly required if travelers are wondering what to do with the Covid-19 form waiting in their seats in incomprehensible Greek script. After some searching, an English-language version also appears to be available.
Just before arriving in Athens, the pilot's voice suddenly sounds: there is indeed testing. In the hall of the Eleftherios Venizelos airport, the corona brigade in blue awaits passengers to accompany them to tables where new covid tracking forms must be completed in duplicate. Again in Greek, so it seems.
Blue distance stripes
A surly "traffic warden" points to a hidden English text line and directs passengers with the form in hand to the blue distance lines in the queue in front of the tents, testing for Covid-19.
The logistics are also still new to the Greek corona personnel. On the spot, it is decided that the blue stripes are too far apart and lead to further crowding and chaos in the queue. One, two, three steps, three men to indicate the meters and the three of them end up right in front of the waiting people.
The test is done in a minute: cotton swab deep in the throat and ready. Instructions are not given. Passengers are expected to know themselves that they now have to be self-quarantined for 24 hours under penalty of a fine of 5,000 euros. The redeeming call comes the next morning. We hope.
From: https://www.volkskrant.nl/nieuws-achter ... ~b7aa5e71/