Air travellers rush to beat new quarantine restrictions for 16 countries
Slight uptake in Dublin airport passenger numbers but figures still down 95% ahead of quarantine changes
Nico Bühler, his wife Justine and their 3-month-old daughter Lucille travelled back from Strasbourg. Photograph: Ronan McGreevy
Dublin Airport is a forlorn looking place these days. It was once the busiest transport hub in Ireland throbbing with passengers from before dawn to last thing at night.
Now nearly all the concessions and restaurants are shut and the check-in desks are deserted.
Wednesday, the last day before 16 new countries were added to the ever-lengthening list of quarantine states, was relatively busy, yet relative meant that figures were down 95 per cent instead of 97 per cent on normal.
All the arrival flights can fit on to one page of the arrivals board. There are just 15 in the 12 hours between 10.25am and 10.25pm and two of these are domestic flights. Ten times that number of arrivals could have been expected in the pre-pandemic era.
In Terminal 1, an Italian man resident in Ireland, who did not want to give his name, said he had already been in five quarantines and did not fancy a sixth one. He went to see his son in Milan who has mental health issues and came back to Ireland to be with another son who is doing his Leaving Certificate. He flew from Milan to Frankfurt and on to Dublin to avoid having to spend two weeks in quarantine.
Terminal 2 was busier. Three Irish army soldiers were on hand when the flight from Dubai landed in at just after 1pm, a place somewhat controversially on the original list of quarantine countries.
Those bound for quarantine trooped in single file through the airport terminal and on to a waiting bus without saying a word.
It was followed by the last Dublin-bound flight out of Paris which was “uncomfortably full”, according to Nico Bühler who travelled back from Strasbourg with his wife Justine and three-month old baby Lucille. Everybody on the flight was wearing masks though all had negative PCR tests.
Deirdre Guzy brought her three children aged between six and 11 back to Northern Ireland to stay with their grandmother. “It’s one way. I haven’t booked my tickets back now,” she said. “We got the last flight out. We were lucky.”
Aoife McSweeney, an Erasmus student, cut short her final term at the University of Grenoble in eastern France. “I’d rather exchange the two weeks in Grenoble and get home now and not have to quarantine. It’s not just the money part. I wouldn’t like it at all.”
DuWayne Petty, a dual Irish-American citizen, avoided quarantine though he had Covid-19 back in January, got a Johnson & Johnson vaccine shot on his second day in the United States and also had a negative PCR test.
He flew from Las Vegas to Chicago to London and then to Ireland as quickly as he could to beat quarantine. “It’s a rough call. Quarantine is a lot of stress to put on people. You would think a negative PCR test would be enough,” he said.
Kathy Farrelly from Longford piled all her possessions into the airport trolly. “I could have done with one less bag. I had too much going on to reduce the belongings I was bringing home,” she stated.
She left Vancouver where she has been working for two years, in a hurry after the Government included Canada on the list of countries from which visitors must quarantine. Her visa was up at the end of April anyway. “I got the announcement on Friday and knew I had to book the flight. I had a busy weekend.”
That weekend consisted of selling her furniture and two vehicles while attempting to say goodbye to her friends. “I’ve been travelling for 24 hours now,” she said. “I didn’t think it could happen this quickly. I am looking forward to going home to see my dog.”
Courtney Dagan from New Jersey is a dual citizen who flew from New York to London and on to Dublin. She had to rebook her US flight when she realised that she would miss her quarantine deadline by three months.
“It was the expense of the hotel room and the mental health of being cooped up for two weeks. I am still going to quarantine in my brother’s place,” she said.