Travel Editor Stephen Scourfield's just returned from Dubai after a long absence. Was he excited? You bet!
Already I feel “international”, and I haven’t even left the tarmac at Perth International Airport.
I’m on my way out of Perth, flying with Emirates to Dubai.
I pass through immigration, placing my passport face down in the reader, stepping forward and removing my mask and getting the big, green border security tick.
I’m pleased that the new security system means I don’t have to remove my laptop — my carry-on simply goes in a tray and is scanned complete.
Duty-free perfume shops glisten; heavenly-scented, tinselly retail artworks.
Yes … after two years trundling around WA, and happily exploring (on and off) other States and Territories, I’m outta here …
I queue and board the Emirates Boeing 777-300 to Dubai, no passport needed at the gate.
And now I’m on board, and it really feels international …
Emirates draws its crew from a huge range of countries and cultures. On the flight they speak 11 languages. Announcements are in Arabic before English.
(My goodness, I love this.)
Does anything endorse an international flavour for the adventure ahead more than Emirates’ Arabic mezze tasting plate? Hummus, muhammara, baba ghanoush, stuffed vine leaves, olives.
Perth is already behind me, the world ahead.
I can taste it. I can smell it. I can feel the freedom.
It’s not like nothing happened. We’re still in an epidemic in WA, and I’m sensitive to the impact it has on those who get really sick, and their friends and families. And to those caring for them.
No, something epic has happened, but it will pass — and, in so many places in the world, it is being treated like it has passed.
What has differed around the world in the pandemic has been the timescale. Our geographic isolation bought us time to vaccinate at high levels.
Dubai did too, very quickly. It reopened for international travellers in August 2020. WA did on March 3 (“march free”, as we marked the day in these pages). Timescales have differed, but we’ll all end up together in the same place. We have the same goal, to return to normal life. But will it be normal? Are we changed forever? Nah, I actually suspect there may not be much lasting change at all.
The only discernible echo of the pandemic at this moment is having to wear a mask at the airport and in the plane, having to show a vaccination certificate (just as I might have had to show a yellow fever certificate) and having to have a COVID test before coming back to Australia. But that testing requirement ends on April 17.
Masks will eventually not be required.
One example of the changing landscape is Ghana, which has just removed the mandatory requirement for face masks to be worn in public. In making the announcement, President Nana Akufo-Addo cited the sustained drop in COVID infections in Ghana and neighbouring countries. He also scrapped the requirement for negative PCR tests for fully vaccinated travellers arriving in the country.
TIPS FOR FUTURE
Here are three reminders about what the practical side of international travel is all about:
+ Keeping your stuff together.
+ Keeping your wits about you.
+ Keeping your head in the game.
+ Go slow. Follow signs. Ask. Procedures might have changed a bit, but there are people there to help you.
+ Get your documents organised — in the phone and on paper, is my advice. If there is something to sort out, you don’t necessarily want to pass it through a gap in a screen to someone who will help you.
There — you’ll easily get your international wings back.
Until the rules for getting back into Australia change, don’t forget to download the DPD app. Digital Passenger Declarations have to be lodged by all incoming travellers.
You need that, a G2G pass and, until April 17, a negative test result — a PCR within three days of the flight, or supervised RAT test within 24 hours.
There’s another big winner in all of this. Regular readers may know that Casey, my faithful suitcase, likes the finer things in life. He hates dust, motels, under-staffing excuses and, most of all, my four-wheel-drive. Two years travelling round WA have, frankly, been purgatory for him. So, being in beautiful Dubai, and a fabbo hotel is right up his alleyway. (More from him on the experience next week.)
FLY WITH CONFIDENCE
I’m flying with confidence with Emirates. Just remember what they have been through, how they have handled it, and how they are re-emerged. Planes were on the ground for months. Crews worldwide were stood down. The industry was at a complete standstill.
Look at Emirates as a standout example of the comeback.
It has taken this one long-haul flight on an Emirates Boeing 777-300 to reset my clock, to reintroduce me, to replace nerves about procedures and requirements with excitement.
The confident and reassuring Emirates cabin crew help with that.
We are rising again, back in the world.