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  • Writer's pictureJanette Frawley

up, up, and away

December 21, 2021

It's been touch and go for days - almost a week - and being at the airport does not guarantee that the plane will take off. After two years of restrictions and lockdowns due to various strains of COVID-19, I had grabbed an opportunity to fly to London to see Natasha when it became available. I just hope that I can leave Australia before it is closed down again as a result of the global outbreak of the Omicron variant of the virus.

The airport is vastly different now. Gone are the large crowds of excited passengers taking off for exotic destinations, and in their place a small group of people, masked, and feeling unsure of themselves as they arm themselves with wads of paper to prove their status as being vaccinated and having a negative PCR test result. I am no different as I join the queue and present my papers after partially checking in.

Up until now, I've been lucky!

Lucky I booked my booster shot before the latest outbreak took hold.

Lucky I had the PCR test early on Monday morning before crowds inundated the testing sites and pathology labs. I had pre-empted all possible roadblocks as the mood started to change about a COVID-free Christmas this year, and now I find myself COVID-weary and wary that getting past this vital first step doesn't guarantee a pain-free exit from Melbourne. The first bit of good information is that the Qantas Club lounge is open and without any further ado, I enter the security hall and the second important step to travelling to the United Kingdom - security and border control.

I virtually skip through the necessary formalities and slide through the inevitable Duty-Free store, the gateway to the international departure gates. I am shocked.

The glamorous, luxury stores that line the walkway to the gates are largely closed, emptied of their expensive goods, maybe never to return. This retail wasteland is a depressing reminder of what COVID has done to the world; stores unable to remain open whilst our borders are closed to the world. Being constrained to our homes for such a long time has heightened my awareness of this pandemic's impact on us.

The departure lounge includes a few despondent early comers. Only a couple of stores are open; a WH Smith with its displays of light reading material and snacks and a bar that doesn't look very welcoming. I continue up to the Qantas Club where I find a seat facing a large picture window with a magnificent view of aircraft taking off and landing outside. It is very much evident that the number of planes departing and arriving has dwindled.

The time comes to board the plane, but no notifications or announcements have yet been mentioned. Have we been caught up in this latest outbreak?

Eventually, we are advised that we are unable to board the aircraft due to a catering issue. Again, COVID has reduced staff and we must be patient.

I still have to board the flight.

I sit on tenterhooks as the plane moves away from the aerobridge and taxies slowly toward the runway. Maybe my luck will hold until we are at least airborne.

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