What it is Like to Fly into Australia from Overseas & My Hotel Quarantine Experience

This is an account of my flight from London to Sydney mid Septermber 2020.

Pre Flight:

I was contacted by email informing me I needed to have a negative COVID test 72 hours before my flight. I also received an email explaining what Social Distancing means and Mask etiquette.

Airport Arrival:

Everyone who is flying is expected to wear a mask. There are stickers regarding social distancing everywhere. The airport staff are not required to wear a mask but most of them do.

The trollies have to be wiped down before and after every use. A new queuing system has been set up to maintain social distancing. Everyone receives a temperature check.

I wish I could have photographed and videoed more but there was additional signage and enforcement of not being on cameras or mobile devices during most of the airport.

It was really strange flying in the middle of a pandemic and my Covid-19 era. Flight experience was incredibly different to that in which I had become accustomed to pre March 2020. The only part of the process that had some normality was the private lounge a little quieter than usual but other than the presence of masks on staff it felt like it used to be but still safe and clean.

Check-in:

You have to show proof of your COVID Test on either your phone or email at check-in.

Lounge:

There are social distance markers on the floor which are very obvious. The toilets and other common areas are cleaned more frequently.

Review of Lounge: An excellent visit to this lounge for the first time. It felt safe and clean. The staff were excellent and helped with everything that I needed.
For more details, read Plaza Premium Lounge Review.

Flight:

Your mask has to remain on during the entire flight. All airline staff wear masks and gloves and also medical aprons. You are required to stay in your allocated seat and cannot move even to empty seats. All seating is in accordance with social distancing.

You will receive a body temp check at Abu Dhabi. Most people in Abu Dhabi wore masks.

The first flight contained around 40 passengers from Heathrow to Abu Dhabi. Usually, my stopovers are full of fun activities and exploring the nearest attraction but due to Corona I had kept my transfer time to an absolute minimum because I wanted to decrease the chances of contact with others.

The Second Flight was particularly light with only 8 passengers on board. This meant there was more staff than passengers. Pretty surreal but a cool experience with top-notch service from the Etihad crew.

Arrival:

To disembark it was extremely slow because of the requirement to queue with social distancing.

Everyone received a Body Temp Check on arrival.

There was a medical questionnaire before you could proceed to immigration. I noticed that all staff wore masks. Collecting luggage felt no different and the usual declare/non declared station was in use. It is strange to see the Airport nearly empty.

We collected our bags and were managed onto a bus by ADF and AFP personnel.

We were not told where we were headed despite numerous people asking, and we were effectively distanced on the bus. All transport and Airports required wearing a face mask at all times. The bus was no exception and we were told to continue wearing our masks until we reached our Hotel Quarantine Rooms.

Quarantine Hotel:

We arrived at the mystery hotel where police and ADF assisted with the baggage. We had to wait on the bus.

Slowly but surely, we were led from the bus to the check in area, where we were once again quizzed on our health. Only two people were called at a time for check-in. We signed agreement forms that we understood the dos and don’ts of the quarantine. We were then taken up individually up to our hotel rooms it was around 1am at this stage.

Day to day life in the Hotel room was okay for the first few days as I had prepared myself for the quarantine with lots of projects but sadly I completed them on around day 8 and everything after that became rather boring, the internet speed was quick enough for Netflix and downloading files.

The Room:

You could not leave the room at all. You would receive a $600 fine if you did. The room had no open windows.  We received meals 3 times a day.

Breakfast – 7:00 to 9:30

Lunch – 11:30 to 14:00

Dinner – 17:30 to 19:00

The Food:
Before arriving at the hotel, I had really low standards of what to expect food wise after seeing numerous news stories and hearing about other friends’ experiences. Needless to say, what I actually received was better than I expected but not great.
The meals were hit and miss sometimes delicious sometimes not so, sometimes hot sometimes you wondered if they had ever been hot.

For the most part the food was okay comparable to standard airline food. Except sometimes the meals were hot and sometimes they were cold. I had two dietary requirements – no seafood and no onions. On more than 5 occasions I was delivered seafood or food with onions this resulted in further delays to me eating my meal. The meals on Day 1 and Day 13 were definitely the best in between the meal sizes shrunk considerably and became repetitive with the same fruit and sides most days.

Some of the food tasted delicious with the stew being my favourite. This was on day 13 where I think they gave us something nice so we would leave on a high forgetting the bad meals.

The worst meal I had was a small portion of pasta with green pesto for dinner, those were the only two ingredients: pasta and green pesto. It was small and bland.

Most dinners consisted of rice or pasta with a small amount of meat and a side salad in a separate container.

All meals arrived in plastic containers and disposable cutlery. I asked for no cutlery as I had my own but this request was ignored as the bags are pre made.

The cooked breakfasts were always something to look forward to but it was an absolute gamble on if it would be hot or cold… When cold the fat would solidify and look disgusting.

There was no microwave to reheat the food items in the hotel.

You could get food delivered to the hotel either fast food or supermarket shopping. On the occasions I did this it again was hit and miss between how long it would take from being dropped to reception to being brought up to my room. 

One time the shopping was dropped at 9am and it didn’t arrive outside my door until 8:30pm the items were not refrigerated or frozen so the ice cream melted and the cheese was sweaty. 

On one occasion food that had been dropped for me vanished and the hotel tried to replace like for like, the hotel presumes someone delivered it to the wrong room.

You are limited to 3 beers per day.

We received daily calls from the mental health nurse checking to see if we were holding up okay in isolation and if we had developed any symptoms.

We were tested 2 times for Covid which is a horrific experience, the swap down the throat isn’t too bad but the swap up the nose is most discomforting. These tests were administered by trained nurses. This was the only close proximity human contact I had during the entire stay and everyone was in full PPE.

At one point someone in another room threw something out of his window smashing the window. No idea why I can only presume that they were desperate for some fresh air, as none of our windows were open, we didn’t feel or taste fresh air for the whole 14 days just aircon. This was probably the worst part of the whole stay.

On Day 3, we were required to have a COVID test.  Our bedding was changed on day 7 and our hotel toiletries were topped up on day 8.

Once again on day 10, we were required to have another COVID test.

On Day 14, you could leave as long as you didn’t have a positive test.
Similar to the check in process we were managed one person at a time, still no chances were being taken.

I AM FINALLY FREEE

Flying from London to Sydney on Etihad and Hotel Quarantine at Sofitel Wentworth Sydney

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