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Monday July 27, 2020

Traveling from the United Arab Emirates to the United States at the time of the Corona virus

From Gautam Rao

The content of the text belongs to the author and expresses his views and may not always reflect the opinions of Wego. Some parts have been modified for brevity and clarity. All photos are submitted by the author.

Most of you read this article and think to itself: Should I fly now? We are all going through the worst pandemic of living memory. The virus was almost randomly dangerous, killing some people, infecting others badly, leaving other, milder or asymptomatic cases with possible longterm damage that might affect the lungs and other parts of the body.

So avoiding a deadly new virus is the only way to be safe!

On July 1st, I traveled for 36 hours, from one doorstep to another! So I left my parents’ house in the UAE and headed to California to meet again with my wife after 5 months of forced absence.

A week after the plane landed, we were tested for coronavirus at home (for American readers, we requested this test). After a few days, the results of the tests showed that we were both uninfected, and we sighed.

Waiting for the flight, I spent more than a month searching for the most important information related to the virus, booking the right flights, making sure that I have all the appropriate precautions and planning for each step of the trip.

Many of you yearn to return to your families and see this journey as inescapable. However, how do you do it safely? Here is the guide:

Evacuation responsibilaty:

Unnecessary travel, like vacation travel, is still highly unpopular all over the world. The number of Coronavirus cases worldwide is 14 million, with a million being added in the last four days alone. The World Health Organization says the epidemic is rapidly accelerating and exacerbating, and in the worstaffected countries, including the United States, hospitals have run out of intensive care beds and had to remove patients. Although countries are reopening and flights are slowly returning, the best advice remains: stay home if you can!

Table of contents

Good eating and exercise – preparing for the trip

The basics you have packed

Flight Reservation Process – Checklist before booking

What happened during the trip

Good eating and exercise – preparing for the trip

For those who are more than a week away from travel, it’s time to do your best to build and strengthen your own immunity. I am not a medical expert, but am based on daily medical advice (r / covid19 It’s a great source). Please do your research and consult a doctor before doing any of the following.


During the three months that I was locked up by general closure, I began a workout routine for the first time in my life that subjected my body to challenges while being careful not to overburden myself too much. I did bodyweight exercises (squats, planks, lunges, and pushups) four days a week. My motivation for starting this mathematical regimen was related to the epidemic: I wanted my body to work as best as possible in the event I was infected.

It has also aimed to reduce visceral fat as it is linked to much worse results for COVID19 due to the large number of ACE2 receptors. After your workout, be sure to drink hot water with honey, turmeric, pepper, and ginger powder, all of which are linked to increased fat burning and infectionfighting properties.

Eat vitamins and nutrition

Plus, I started taking vitamin D supplements regularly and made sure I got enough sunlight off the balcony facing the beautiful Persian Gulf at my father’s house. 1000 IU is the amount you took, which is considered safe. It can be said that vitamin D is the only most important supplement that you can take to protect your immune system against the virus.

Zinc and vitamin C supplements are also known to boost the immune system, although I haven’t taken it because I wasn’t sure if longterm consumption was safe. Just before the trip, I took a dietary supplement at the end, and since then I started taking it regularly because my vegetarian diet means I probably might be somewhat deficient.

Thanks to my parents, I used to drink green tea, almonds, chia seeds, flaxseed and garlic every day. Green tea is great for burning fat and maintaining good health. Garlic is known to be an antimicrobial, with many positive health effects. Almonds, chia and flax are healthy fats that also raise benign cholesterol levels, and lower HDL cholesterol levels are associated with an increased risk of infection and an increase in its severity.

The basics you have packed

Based on the most recent we know about the virus, it is transmitted in two ways in the first place: by touching the surfaces on which the virus has traces, then touching our face which allows it to enter through our eyes, nose, or mouth, or by air through the same organs mentioned. In fact, I was more concerned about infection through the air, as it seemed to me something that I could not personally control, unlike my ability to control potential infections through the surfaces, by sterilizing my hands well every few minutes.

Here’s what you bought and used on the trip:


6 different types of masks (more details below)

face shield

Nasal saline spray

Dettol Antiseptic (Any antiseptic must work with a concentration of 60% or more alcohol)

Disposable gloves (several pairs)

Alcohol wipes

Collapsible water bottle

In fact, I rarely used goggles, the face protector was much more comfortable, the fog was not formed on it, and it provided more protection. I put one face mask on during the trip, and packed a protective baseball cap in my bag in anticipation.

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The six types of masks

First, I wanted to make sure I had enough masks for a 36hour trip. Why do I need multiple masks? Because the longer the mask is worn, the less effective and the more uncomfortable. Assuming I change my mask every 34 hours, I will need about 912 mask. And with the calculation of other additional numbers in case any mask is torn, this becomes the number of what I filled out:

Surgical masks, number 8

KN95 Masks, Number 8

N95 Masks, Number 5

N95 breathable, number 5

Fabric masks with PM2.5 filters, number 2

Copper fiber breathable mask, 1 count

Why so many different types of masks? Simply because, each of these masks offers a different level of protection and comfort. Each step of the trip presented a different level of risk, and I wanted to wear protective masks during the most dangerous stages of the trip, and the most comfortable masks at other times (especially during the time I had to sleep).

I bought all the masks from amazon. Two days before the trip, I realized I had another problem: How do I know if the masks I bought are legitimate and safe? I’m not going to go into much detail here, but I’ve used two tests to find out:

1- Water Bowl Test: Can the N95 and KN95 masks retain water without letting it drip from the other side? The water molecules must be so large that they cannot pass through mask filters.

2- Blowing test: I had no candle, so I tried to blow in a glass of water to see if I could create ripples on its surface.

Fortunately, the N95 / KN95 masks I bought succeeded in both tests.

Flight Reservation Process – Checklist before booking

In early June, I had booked the first direct flight available on July 1 from Dubai International Airport DXB to San Francisco International Airport on Emirates Airlines. I considered it the best I could get due to several things, including that it was direct, that it was on Emirates Airlines, and that the two airports were taking the correct precautions (San Francisco International Airport was still empty).

Two days later, the flight was canceled.

I was surprised, and I realized that I had to be careful about choosing my next trip. I will not only need to think about safety and comfort, but also the possibility of canceling the flight.

Here is a list of things to consider before booking a flight

  • Book a flight on a highly rated airline. Often times, their superior service will mean higher levels of care during a time like this.
  • Learn the safety precautions and standards imposed by an airline from its website. Some of the most important ones include:
  • Install HEPA filters on all aircraft (absolutely necessary)
  • Imposing mask use on flights for crew and passengers (absolutely necessary. This becomes more necessary in countries that have not enforced national mask wear policies)
  • Keep the middle seats empty
  • Ensure that aircraft are cleaned between flights
  • Ensure that the aircraft toilets are cleaned during the flight.
  • It is also important to realize that many airlines have completely disposed of luggage allowed in the aircraft cabin altogether, allowing only a personal item to be on board. I had to leave several sets of important documents and pack only what I needed in my bag.
  • Book directly on the airline website itself or through a travel agent that makes it easy to request a refund later. Be sure to read the airline’s refund policy before booking, as most agents will enforce the same policy as the airline.
  • Make your reservation a few days before you travel. This guarantees two things: first, the possibility of canceling the flight is diminished, and secondly, the ability to ensure that the flight you take is not crowded with passengers, thereby reducing the risks.
  • Direct flights are the best, but if that is not possible, make sure that your flight is limited to one stop and that it is better to choose the airport that takes the strongest precautions (the most important of which is the application of mask use). Finding a trip that reduces the time you spend alongside other people on queues is an additional hit of luck.
  • Make sure to provide your airline with your current contact information. This makes keeping track of your contacts much easier at your destination.
  • If possible, book a cancelable flight. This gives you more options in an emergency.
  • Take a look at the IATA website for the latest updates to see which countries you can travel to or countries you can cross from. Looking at the US dealing with the crisis, I felt more comfortable passing through Canada, South Korea, Singapore, or Europe. However, these trips were either too expensive or were not available, or transit for noncitizens and residents was simply not possible.
  • Book a window seat, and preferably no one sits in your classroom. Window seats represent the lowest risk for all types of seats.
  • Book a seat close enough to the toilet so you can see if anyone is using the bathroom without having to wait.
  • The seats closest to the front of the plane are the best. Aircraft filters do not generally work while the plane is on the runway, so the less time you spend on board while boarding and getting off, the better. Between sitting in front and sitting away from others, always choose the last option. Remember that other people are the greatest danger during your trip.

Finally, think about the timing of your trip. As the borders of countries are reopened, the number of people traveling increases, making social distancing more difficult. On the contrary, it may actually be safer to travel to places where restrictions are imposed or imposed than by traveling to places where passengers are free to travel.

If all this is very difficult to remember, remember the two basic rules for planning your trip:

  • Reduce interactions with others
  • Minimize time in places with poor filtration (most small interior spaces) and spend as much time as possible in places with significant filtration and / or dilution (outdoor and airplanes)

Ensure that my flight will be smooth

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With all of the above in mind, I finally booked a flight between Abu Dhabi International Airport – John F. Kennedy International Airport – San Francisco International Airport on Etihad Airways – JetBlue.

It was clear that Etihad and Abu Dhabi Airport were taking some great precautions, and the JetBlue station at John F. Kennedy Airport had an outside garden that enabled me to get some relief from wearing the mask during the 5hour hiatus.

In addition, Etihad Airways allows you to End the immigration and customs clearance transactions Never before at Abu Dhabi International Airport, this way I didn’t have to queue with other flight passengers at John F. Kennedy Airport, so I skipped tough stages of the flight and kept active at the same time.

In the days leading up to the flight, I reviewed with great concern the allocation of seats on both flights to ensure that a few people sat beside me. Two days before the flight, Etihad Airways reduced the size of the plane and put me in a seat on the aisle. Fortunately, I realized that early on and took the only remaining window seat I could find without anyone sitting in my classroom.

Before traveling, it is important to check two things:

  • Are there travel restrictions in the country that prevent me from reaching the departure airport?
  • Do I need a negative test result for Corona virus with proof before flying?

In my case, the Emirate of Abu Dhabi had border restrictions preventing entry from other emirates, and I spent a few days before contacting taxi, police, airport and airline companies to find out how I could get to the airport. Etihad offered bus service, but buses are notorious because of poor air circulation, and I didn’t want to take a risk. In the end, I found that Dubai taxis can travel freely to Abu Dhabi Airport.

As for the coronavirus test result, I did not need to submit it at the time, however I would have had one if requested.

What happened during the trip

30 hours before the flight, I checked into the internet and confirmed my window seat option, although I still have to receive boarding passes at the airport. I spent a relaxing day eating well and getting some sleep. If possible, fill your food for the trip, this will reduce the risk of infection tools from the crew, and allow you to eat at a time separate from other passengers who will of course be without face masks when eating. My mother set some amazing and wonderful Alo Paratha for the trip.

This is common advice so far, but I have used hand sanitizer freely and frequently throughout the entire trip, and made sure not to touch my face. Here are the rest of the precautions you took.

I used to wear a face mask or shield for the entire trip, except for the time I spent outdoors.

The first flight: from Ajman to Abu Dhabi Airport (two hours)

My parents took me to Dubai Taxi Square. Precautions taken: Minimum sterilization of hands, wearing the mask in the elevator and common areas of the building.

I put on both sides of the shield, the KN95 mask (the most comfortable I have the N95) and gloves. I don’t think glove helps because it gives a false sense of safety, but it was mandatory at Abu Dhabi airport. I sat in the back seat, and put both windows for maximum air circulation. My driver was wearing a mask and had a large plastic shield separating the front seat section from the back seat for added safety.

At the checkpoint, I had ready documents I provided.

I paid the driver in cash to avoid sterilizing my card. Outside the airport, the place was completely deserted. I took this opportunity as an opportunity to breathe, change masks, and carry bags on the cart. Make sure to wipe the cart handles with alcohol wipes. Before wearing the mask, I used a saline nose solution which should give you an extra defense against viruses in the dry environment of the plane.

Flight 2: Abu Dhabi Airport (1 hour)

Stationary checkpoints have been placed at airport checkin points. In the departure section, I had to remove my mask and face shield, but there was nobody else around me so it was fine. At the checkpoint, there was no row, so I packed my bag in and out in a jiffy.

Flight 3: Immigration, Customs, and Ascension to the United States (5 hours)

I completed all procedures by 3 am, and there were another 3 hours until the U.S. Immigration and Customs Department opened. I took the opportunity to sleep while keeping the mask and deterring the face, and took a rest. Toilets are highrisk areas, but with no one around, going to one of them makes me feel safe.

Before entering the immigration queue, I changed the mask to N95 (which had a better seal than the more comfortable KN95 I was wearing). Standing in a long line poses a higher risk, so more protection is needed.

In US immigration and customs, I had to remove the mask and shield again.

Just before going up, I filled the water in the collapsible water bottle.

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Flight 4: Abu Dhabi Airport – John F. Kennedy Airport (14 hours)

Since I was sitting in the last row available while booking, I was the last person to be brought in.

I had the whole class for myself, as planned. The strange thing is that the five rows behind me were completely empty, so I asked the staff if I could sit there, and they told me it was a quarantine area for passengers who had symptoms. I wished nothing but goodness before sitting down, and I wiped everything with the alcohol wipes I got.

Seating in the back had its advantages / I had two relatively empty toilets that I could use (the bathrooms in the middle of the plane are more easily accessible by most passengers). And really, shortly after take off, I used it.

Immediately after taking off and running the filters, I used the saline nose solution again, and I changed the mask to KN95 more comfortable. I kept my face shield all the time. I ran all the air filters near me (the air is filtered through HEPA filters and the jet provides a protective air stream to dispel any coughing or sneezing soon).

I made sure to eat separately from my fellow passengers, thanks to the food I packed. As for refilling water, I was wiping the bottle that I got from the crew before refilling the package. Given my desire to reduce the number of trips to the toilet, I made sure that I did not drink or eat as I normally do.

Not having any offender passengers in the class made it so easy for me, as I made it a point to change my mask almost every 3 hours or when the current mask becomes uncomfortable. I also used a nasal spray every time I change the mask. For this relatively safe part of the flight, I chose to choose the most comfortable KN95.

Flight 5: John F. Kennedy Airport (5.5 hours)

Everything at John F. Kennedy Airport was easy and smooth. As soon as I got off the plane, I entered the bathroom. I chose one far from all the gates inside the international terminal, which was completely deserted.

Returning to Terminal 5 of JetBlue, there was a long line in the regular checkin counters, so I went to an isolated help desk where they were able to print my boarding pass. She took a few minutes to go outside the station, took advantage of sunlight and changed the mask to the most suitable N95.

The TSA was the same as in Abu Dhabi, and I had to remove the mask and shield. There was no queue, which is great. After completing this section, I got to the outdoor park that I found in my research.

The park was beautifully empty, and there was a gentle breeze. I used this time to sit without the mask (or use a cloth mask when people visited the garden) and do some work. I also filled my water bottle and ate more.

The climb was more stressful. No social banishment and there was a long streak. I wore the N95 Mask uncomfortably during this time for added protection.

Flight 6: John F. Kennedy – San Francisco International Airport

عندما قمت بحجز مقعد JetBlue ، كان الصف أمامي وخلفي فارغًا، ولم يكن هناك أحد في صفي أيضًا. بعد صعودنا، أدركت أن ذلك لم يعد صحيحًا. وبسبب ذعري،، قرر جيت بلو تغيير أمكنة الجميع بحيث تكون الرحلة بأكملها بعيدة أكثر. الكثير لحجز المقعد مقدما. كان لدي الآن أشخاص يتمّ ضمان التباعد أكثر خلال الرحلة. كان هناك أشخاص من حولي، بما في ذلك في الصف نفسه. لحسن الحظ ، كان المقعد الأوسط شاغراً.

خطتي لتناول الطعام في هذه الرحلة تحطمت. كان معظم الناس من حولي يرتدون أقنعة، على الرغم من أنني اضطررت إلى تذكير زميلتي على متن الطائرة بين الحين والآخر بإعادة وضعها. بعد حوالي ساعة ، أصبح N95 غير مريح إطلاقاً، فاغتنمت هذه الفرصة لارتداء مزيج من قناع النحاس المريح للغاية (الألياف النحاسية تقتل الميكروبات) وقناع KN95 فوق ذلك ، مع مراعاة مشكلة الملاءمة ومنحي حماية إضافية لما شعرت أنه الجزء الأكثر خطورة في رحلتي.

الرحلة رقم 7: الوصول إلى المنزل (ساعتان)

كنت مرهقا تماما عندما وصلنا إلى سان فرانسيسكو. كان هناك أيضًا بعض الرحلات الجوية الأخرى التي هبطت في ذلك الوقت، لذلك كانت منطقة الأمتعة مزدحمة للغاية. ولحسن الحظ ، خرجت حقيبتي في وقت مبكر جدًا، فتوّجهت إلى منطقة انتظار أوبر.

حان الوقت لتغيير القناع النهائي – ارتديت KN95 المفضل لدي مرة أخرى، بالإضافة إلى الدرع.كان سائق أوبر يرتدي قناعًا من القماش ، ولم يكن للسيارة نفسها أي من الاحتياطات التي كانت موجودة في سيارة أجرة دبي. جلست في المقعد الخلفي وأنزلت النوافذ للحصول ‘على أكبر قدر من التهوئة.

بمجرد أن وصلت إلى المنزل ، كان أول شيء فعلته هو إفراغ حقيبتي خارج المنزل والاستحمام بمجرد دخولي. حجزت أنا وزوجتي في الحجر الصحي لمدة أسبوعين، وطلبنا مجموعة اختبار المنزل . النتائج ظهرت سلبية بعد بضعة أيام.


لقد نجحت الرحلة! يبدو أن جميع الاحتياطات التي اتخذتها قد نجحت. على الرغم من أن الرحلة كانت مرهقة، فقد كان الأمر يستحق العناء لأنني تمكنت من رؤية زوجتي مرة أخرى.

لأكون صادقاً، لقد كان التخطيط للرحلة والتأكد من استعدادي أكثر استنزافًا من الرحلة نفسها. آمل،على الأقل، أن يساعدك هذا الدليل على السفر براحة بال،شرط أن تكون قد فعلت ما بوسعك للحد من المخاطر التي قد تواجهها.

Gautam Rao هو رائد أعمال ومنتج ، وقد أسس وعمل في العديد من شركات البرمجيات التي تعتمد على المهام. حصل على درجة الماجستير من جامعة ستانفورد وعاش وعمل في 6 دول في 4 قارات.

تابعه على Twitter أو Medium أو Instagram ، أو تواصل معه على LinkedIn.

تويتر: @ gautamrao11



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