About a week ago I moved to Halifax, NS. I still have a week to go on quarantine, it certainly was a weird experience due to Covid-19. The borders are still closed to nonessential travel, but I had a job offer & related paperwork from Immigration (I’ll explain this in more detail later on. The job didn’t have to be “essential” now, if it’s serving the Canadian economy it’s essential enough in my case) My last trip was the end of February (roughly two weeks before Covid-19 led to the current border closures and airline policies) so I definitely got a great before and after look at this.
I arrived at the Knoxville Airport at 6AM with two footlockers. These were the maximum size for checked bags. I was worried about the weight limit, I was just under the limit. I think this was normal pre-Covid too, I had to go the ticketing counter to get my boarding passes too, since they checked that I had a valid passport here. Due to Covid-19 they wanted to know my reason for travel and see supporting documentation as well. I showed my Letter of Introduction & off I go.
I’m not used to the crowds at the TSA checkpoint but it seemed otherwise normal, maybe even a bit more relaxed actually. I’m used to going through security at smaller airports or during quiet windows between the crowds too & can’t say I’ve personally had a bad experience. (How much of this is luck I don’t know) I kept a travel kit and a container of hand sanitizer separate (TSA is allowing Hand Sanitizer up to 12oz in addition to the 3 1 1 rule for liquids) and everything else was rather normal. The TSA agents were wearing masks and face shields, and only wanted my mask off for ID comparison and back on.
I went to my gate for my flight to Chicago, IL’s O’Hare Airport. I saw everyone wearing masks except for one or two people who’d remove it in between sips of coffee. I knew the United policy was to wear a mask from ticketing counter all the way to baggage claim, but I don’t think I heard any announcements or anything until boarding.
I wouldn’t know it yet but in a city making news for having one of the highest rates of infection, this airport had the highest compliance of mask policy I’d see during my trip. Chicago I kept hearing “Wear a mask or face a fine” over the PA system but everyone had to eat and drink too. Toronto I spent a large amount of time at the Maple Leaf Lounge, I think this was the first day they had opened since Covid-19 started. No buffet, every seat spaced well out and an app for ordering your hot food to further encourage distancing. I did see a lot of masks at the gate closer to boarding time in Toronto.
When I was at my gate, an earlier flight to Toronto was boarding. I ran into a passenger also was going from Knoxville to Halifax with her dog, United was wanting to see more specific documentation for her trip (From what I heard she was covered under the current Family Reunification rules) I left for lunch at McDonald’s afraid for my own boarding now, I didn’t find out if she was allowed to continue her trip or not. In the end I showed the same Letter of Introduction to United and had my first temperature check of the day. (A requirement of the Government of Canada)
On the plane we’re handed a declaration form for customs to fill out. After we landed and left the plane we were asked (politely told?) to fill out a Covid-19 Contact/Quarantine form in the hallway heading towards Customs. I filled out the form and was allowed to skip this line & head to a different line for Customs & Immigration. First I went to an electronic kiosk, inserted my passport and customs declaration form into the kiosk and answered a few questions. Then I went to a Customs officer who took a glance at my Passport, Letter of Introduction, Job Offer and Travel Insurance and sent me on to the Immigration line. Up to this point everything was as quick and normal as the last trip, just waiting and a minute or two of talking.
I knew when my flight landed but I didn’t have the presence of mind to be keeping track of how long each step took until this point. There was so many people (I think I came in with a batch of mid-day flights, not just my own) and took a peak at my watch. It took me somewhere between an hour and a half to two hours to get through this line and up to the counter (with new sneeze guards installed) and I can’t remember being asked at any stage to remove my mask here (I assume I was and it just felt normal by this point, I’d been up for 14 hours by this point too.)
I spoke with a really nice CBSA Officer, handed her my Passport, Letter of Introduction, Job Offer and Travel Insurance. I was asked if my old address was still my permanent residence (I was at first a little shocked that she knew my previous home was in Cleveland, TN before remembering my Letter of Intent had a Unique Client Identifier and an application number. I had my address in my application & they could have a record form my previous trips too)
I said I moved out of that apartment for this job here. I was asked if I had a permanent address in Canada, I felt a little nervous (I always am, just something about knowing your travel plans are at the mercy of someone else affects my nerves. Airlines, Customs or whomever.) And said “I guess my Girlfriend’s, I’ll be in the 2nd bedroom during quarantine” Next I know I’m reading my new work permit, checking for errors and off to baggage claim.
After getting my two footlockers and putting them on a free cart (thanks CIBC) I turned in the kiosk paper from earlier to the final CBSA official and then went to check my bags again, this time with Air Canada (I bought a separate ticket for this flight to get a longer layover in Toronto, just in case. Glad I did. However if it was all on the same ticket, I wouldn’t have had to do this. Air Canada would have just taken them from Customs to the plane.)
It was cool how they automated baggage check here. I placed the baggage tag on the handle myself, set it on a conveyor belt that weighed it & used a laser sensor to measure it. Off I go to the Maple Leaf Lounge for dinner and…..My final flight is delayed. It was really nice of Air Canada to hold the flight for everyone to make it, I’m not sure exactly how much we were delayed. I think it was an hour and a half, I napped through the takeoff I was so tired. (Napping with a mask on isn’t easy, I put my fleece over my face as an extra covering and to keep the light out too)
Finally landed in Halifax, NS and off to baggage claim. At baggage claim I had to fill out another quarantine/contact form, this time for Nova Scotia (Anyone coming from outside the “Atlantic Bubble” has to quarantine for two weeks under provincial law, including fellow Canadians from Quebec and points further west) Turned in the form, showed my passport and a taxi ride later home.
I’m halfway through quarantine, Spending a lot of time outside on the balcony and even having a lunch guest the other day. I can’t wait to walk along the waterfront boardwalk, but alas I will be waiting another week…..