You are currently viewing Life in Quarantine in Mongolia Part 2: Getting a Visa

Life in Quarantine in Mongolia Part 2: Getting a Visa

You can read part 1 here.

Being a flight attendant means I fly a lot. I fly 6 days a week for about 44 weeks a year. My flights aren’t measured in miles but in hours. For the past 10 years I have averaged 1200 hours of flight time (actually block time) a year. Last year I hit 1300 hours. Because block time includes taxi time, I conservatively estimate that I travel 300 miles for every flight hour. If my math is any good, in 10 years I’ve racked up at least 3.6 million miles.

In March, over a 2 week period, I saw our flights go from completely full to completely empty. And I really do mean empty. Sometimes we were just ferrying empty planes into position. The last few days I flew we probably averaged 5 passengers per flight (on planes that can hold more than 190 passengers). Then the mass cancellations started and I found myself getting paid to sit at home. For the entire month of April. Every singe one of my scheduled flights canceled.

Fast forward to September 12 and I was getting on a plane again for the first time in over 5 months. This time as a paying passenger. A lot has changed. Masks are mandatory, of course. TSA doesn’t take your ticket anymore. You scan it yourself and either hand them your identification or sometimes scan it yourself. When they check your picture you will have to remove your mask.

I booked the first flight of the day since I was coming right back home. We had one more day left on our Disney passes and we were determined to use them before we left. My route was MCO to ATL to DCA and then the reverse to get back. The Orlando airport seemed empty but this was mostly due to the drastic reduction in the number of flights. There used to be a flight every hour up to Atlanta, now there’s half as many. New York had 7 flights each to LGA and JFK, now they each have just 1. My first and last flights were considered full, in this case that meant 60% booked. All middle seats were empty (except for groups traveling together).

The flights boarded back to front. There were constant reminders to stay 6 feet apart. Just like at the security checkpoint, you scanned your ticket yourself. The flight attendants gave you wet wipes as you boarded. The drink service consisted of a bottle of water and a snack packaged together in a zip top bag. First and Second Class got beer and wine but no mixed drinks. The planes were ice cold but this is how we flight attendants like them. No more blankets on domestic flights though. I had my jacket on the whole time. We were asked to maintain social distancing during deplaning as well and everyone seemed to comply.

These signs were six feet apart all down the jetbridge.

Atlanta airport was actually quite crowded considering passenger traffic is down 75% year on year. It almost felt like the ATL of old. People everywhere eating in the food court, rushing to make connections, drinking at the bar. DCA was the opposite. Everything was closed except one or two shops. The plane was mostly empty and so was the airport.

DCA had only a handful of passengers.

I was only in DC for an hour. It was a 10 minute ride to the embassy. I had to wait outside since it was closed on the weekend. They took my passport and returned it a few minutes later. I had never needed a visa before since Americans can stay in the country for 90 days without one. When we lived there for a year I was still working so I was commuting back and forth. This time they said I needed the visa because there was no way I was leaving the county in 90 days.

On this display you can see all the businesses that are closed. Some of the ones that said they were open were actually closed as well.

Now that I had the visa we could buy the tickets. Our seats were already reserved (the passenger list is provided by the state department) and could only be paid for by relatives here in Mongolia. Now we had 2 days to go to Disney and finish packing and cleaning.

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Jay Muller

Author of The Flight Advisor

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