First, we were planning for a very small Thanksgiving, even probably in shifts. Even back in September, Boris and I were talking about him finally coming our way. By that time, I felt sort of in control of the situation and was sure that I know how to navigate the current situation, how to be safe, and what we can and can’t do.
The last time Boris saw anybody except myself was last November, and he never saw Kira. So we drafted a plan, how to connect “in shifts,” and then cases started to rise, and then I think we all just got scared and were afraid that “it can become worse.” We all talked to each other for hours, and I am not sure who finally convinced me, but the result is that I am now in Helsinki.
I got the ticket just five days before departure, and I booked it at the Lufthansa website directly, thereby not paying attention to who operates the flight. And even when I received my reservation confirmation, I didn’t look into details – there was a Lufthansa logo on the reservation email.
On Sunday evening, when I realized that the check-in email didn’t arrive, I went to the Lufthansa website, and to my horror, saw the message: redirecting to the United website! Only then I realized that the flight number starts from UA!
I had so many negative experiences with United, especially with international travel, that I promised myself multiple times never to use them again. And now, with pandemic travel, I already heard some stories on the radio about them asking to present the COVID test results. But at that moment, there was nothing I could do.
When I clicked on the link that redirected me to the UA site, I got the message: access for this reservation is denied. Then I went to the UA site directly and tried to check-in from there. There was an error message. I called their support, and they said: oh, you need to check-in from the app and scan your passport!
I did, and my passport was accepted, but after that, they still didn’t issue me a boarding pass. Instead, they sent me an email with a note that additional documentation verification is needed, and I need to present it at the airport.
I got extremely nervous because I remember how much trouble Boris used to have with UA. And although nobody asked me for the two previous flights, I decided to print a page from the Finnish border control’s most recent guidelines (as of Monday) and highlight the lines that describe my situation.
Vlad took me to the airport, and the usual UA story started: ma’am, you can use the kiosk to check-in – No, I can’t use it! I got in line to get to the agent, and then the agent didn’t know what he needed to check. I told him he needs to check that I can enter Finland. He was – ah, you need the COVID test results! I said: I have it (I did another hundred-dollars rapid test on Friday), but you do not need it. You need my documentation that I can enter Finland, and here it is.
I do not think he believed me :), but he issued my boarding passes. Unfortunately, I could not choose my seats at that point.
The gate area was crowded, not like last time, and there was a huge group of young men who didn’t seed behaving responsibly. When I boarded, I realized the United does not keep the middle seat open. Actually, I received a text message early in the morning about the aircraft change, and that’s when I started to suspect that this will happen.
The flight was almost full, which meant that I chose not to eat because I didn’t want to take my mask off in the crowded conditions. That meant that I didn’t eat or drink since 2 PM Monday.
When I arrived in Frankfurt, there was a whole other interrogation at the border control. Nothing like I had before. The officer asked when I am planning to go back and whether I can show a return ticket (I have it, but I can’t show it). Then she asked whether I have a copy of my husband’s passport (I have, but you do not need it). I gave her the printed page from the Finnish border control with the highlighted line, and she examined it. Then she proceeded with whether we live together (not at the moment). I think she wanted to ask what kind of marriage is that, and she desperately wanted to find any reason to not let me in :).
Then, I had to wait for four hours for my next flight. I bought some food which I could not really eat but made myself to eat. On the next flight, my seat was in the middle, with the seats on both my sides occupied.
After that, the Finnish border control was uneventful, and there was no line for the COVID test, so it only took me fifteen minutes extra, and once again, I had to take a taxi home. But at least it was all over (and a negative result was texted to me in the morning).
Hopefully, the next several days will be less stressful!