Travelling during this period is especially challenging. We asked one of our young people about their experience of visiting family in Jamaica.
How many times were flights cancelled and why?
My original flight was booked for May, in 2019. At that time, I didn’t know coronavirus would ever exist. The airline that I booked with stopped their flights to the Caribbean therefore I had to change airlines to get where I was going. But it manly got cancelled due to the coronavirus safety measures.
Did you head for the airport not expecting to travel?
Honestly, no. I was expecting to get another phone call or message to say it was cancelled again. An occasion happened where I was on my way to the airport and half-way through the journey, we had a call from the airline stating the flight was cancelled.
What was it like on the plane?
In the airport social distancing, masks and hand sanitisers were mandatory. I expected the same thing when I went on the plane but nope, it was a fully packed plane with no social distancing. I at least thought they would leave middle seats empty to help with the regulations. People had to take their masks off to eat so it really didn’t make a difference having it on or not, we were all stuck with each other for 10 hours. The airline wasn’t allowed to serve hot foods due to them having to be in more contact with it during preparation, therefore we mainly had sandwiches and snacks.
How was your arrival in Jamaica?
Arriving at the airport was complete chaos. 350+ passengers had to leave the plane one by one but remain a few meters apart. We all had to get our temperatures checked, passports, travel verification and our addresses taken so they could locate where we were staying for the first 14 days. We spent at least 4 hours standing in the line to finally get assisted, keeping in mind we were near enough at the front of the line. Some people from our flight were way at the back of the line. Then another flight came in from America, I can only imagine how many dreadful hours they stood for. By time we were out the airport it was well past the 8pm curfew, therefore we had to stay in a hotel for the night and travel home in the morning.
How was your stay?
Due to lockdown there was not much we could do. Most of the beaches and rivers were closed also there were not much tourist activities. However, I did manage to visit some hotels, close family and friends. Surprisingly I enjoyed the 2-week quarantine! It felt good to be back in my room where I spent most of my childhood. I took my time to go through my things such as my school uniforms, my books and my paintings that were all over my bedroom walls. I near enough never wanted to leave.
How was travelling back to the UK?
Coming back was terrible! We scheduled a taxi driver to pick us up in the morning but on the day, we didn’t hear from him. My uncle ended up carrying us to the coach station in his ambulance! It was really awkward turning up in an ambulance especially during Covid-19 times… but the journey did not end there, we had to take a coach to the other side of the island to reach the airport. That journey was horrific, I randomly got travel sickness out of nowhere. Four hours passed and we arrived at the airport, we actually got through pretty quickly this time. In terms of the flight, that was terrible too. It was noisy, tightly packed, cold, bouncy, there were kids kicking my seat and on top of that I was travel sick. Arriving at Gatwick Airport, we had to remain socially distanced when leaving the plane. We whizzed through customs and had nothing to declare. One more journey left, to make it back home. Luckily the train from the airport dropped us close to home but it still meant dragging our heavy suitcases up two flights of stairs. We struggled but made it in the end!
How did things feel when you arrived back?
The feeling was bittersweet. I was torn between the two places I love but I know it’s safer for me to be back in England. As we left, Covid-19 cases were rising significantly in Jamaica, and healthcare is terrible out there. I thank God that I’ve came so far and I’ve not caught anything, especially during those flights.