I left Bangkok on March 10 and headed to San Francisco to help Benjawan Poomsan for her Thai online course. The COVID-19 situation was worsen in California and the shelter-in-place order was in place only a week after I got to San Francisco. I was planning to travel to Las Vegas and Vancouver on May 10 and return to Thailand on May 20. However, my return flight was canceled and my mom started to freak out due to the surging number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. on top of my allergic reactions to dust mites as I was staying at a place with carpets.
My dad looked into information right away and sent me the link to sign up for repatriation flights with the Royal Thai Embassy. I registered in the system on May 12 and also called the Embassy a week after to inform them about my allergy and where I was staying had carpets which were paradise for dust mites. My dad also e-mailed them, informing my medical conditions, believed to expedite the process for me to go home.
On June 10, I received an e-mail from the Royal Thai Embassy about available repatriation flights during June 16-June 29. I discussed with Benjawan and decided to travel on Sunday, June 28. There were only two airports available to catch those repatriation flights–JFK and LAX.
After purchasing the ticket on one agency’s website, I got an email confirmation and it said that I would get the e-ticket on June 26–just two days before the departure. However, the e-ticket was sent to me on June 18 and it was also one of the three documents required to be uploaded to the system before I could obtain the document with the official stamp from the Embassy. Other documents include the front page of my passport and the signed consent form for state quarantine in Thailand.
Once I obtained the important document issued by the Embassy, I would also need Fit to Fly Certificate. The Asiana Airlines staff in L.A. required me to show these two documents before they issued my boarding passes.
Fit to Fly Certificate or Fitness to Fly Certificate is not a document to verify that you don’t have coronavirus. It is just a certificate for a general checkup that verify that you’re healthy enough to fly. And you need to get it done not longer than 72 hours before the departure, meaning the best time to get it done is two days before your departure time in case your flight is delayed.
On Friday, June 26, I arrived in Los Angeles. I still didn’t receive the important document that needed to be issued by the Thai Embassy as it had been over 48 hours since the submission. I called and emailed them and finally they re-sent the document via e-mail. Around 4:15 PM on the same day, I went to see Dr. Pink to get Fit to Fly Certificate. It took only 15 minutes for her to ask me some questions regarding my health and medical conditions while measuring my body temperature and oxygen level. It wasn’t anything substantial or a regular medical checkup such as blood test or even fitness test.
On travel day, I got up around 8:00 AM and checked out of my hotel around 9:30 AM on Sunday, June 28. AC Hotel by Marriott was literally 5 min away from the airport. Once I got there, I was quite surprised to see there were a lot of passengers in line to check their bags. I expected it to be a flight full of Thai nationals. Instead, it was full of Koreans and I was told that I would be seated in the middle.
It was a 13-hour flight and we were required to wear masks at all times and could only take them off when eating. I got to Incheon in the evening and the layover was only 1.5 hours.
It was also a full flight from Inchoen to Bangkok but there were only Thai nationals who flew from all over America. I recall almost all of us all slept through the flight and five hours went by so quickly.
Walking out of the plane, I heard a warm welcome from the airport staff.
“Welcome home! You’re safe now! This is Thailand. No Thais are left behind!”
It was really heart warming and I totally felt like I was home again. It felt good to be home, really!
It took about 30 minutes to submit the documents and pass through the immigration. It was raining pretty hard and so our bags came out pretty late, almost an hour after. After getting our bags, we all were directed to the coaches waiting outside the airport.
I was told I would be in quarantine at Century Park Hotel in Ratchaprarop but for some reason I ended up at Brighton Hotel in Banga. The room was quite nice and they also prepared a Thai dish–fried rice with fried eggs, which I couldn’t eat due to my food sensitivities.
Stay tuned for upcoming blogs for my quarantine stories!