It wasn’t an easy decision. We are based in London because of my job, and news of hospitals in our area reaching full capacity made us anxious by the day. We had already started isolating ourselves for 4 weeks. I would work from home, and we had already stopped J Boy’s nursery a week before they announced the lockdown in the UK. Daddy Sean went for grocery runs every week, and this was a big risk factor.
When MFA first announced flying Singaporeans back in March, we held back because we didn’t wish to risk catching the virus en route. It felt safer at home at that point of time. However, as time went on, we started getting worried. What if one of us gets sick? What would happen to J Boy? There’s absolutely no extended family support where we were.
So after 4 weeks of isolation, we made the decision to return to Singapore for the next 3 months. My company offered the flexibility of working remotely, while I had the blessing of my manager. From the time we decided to return home, to the day we left London, it was only 5 days. J Boy was really excited to go back home!
Prepping our documents
We booked our tickets on SQ, and did our health declaration online. The price of our air tickets were surprisingly reasonable, given the current situation. On the day before our flight, we received a call from SQ to confirm our booking.
I did a ton of research about what to expect on our journey home, and if we needed to submit any forms ahead of our trip. It turned out to be extremely straightforward – we didn’t even need to inform ICA ahead of time how many of us were going to arrive. I guess they have enough hotel rooms to accommodate returning Singapore residents.
We made sure to pack our UK visas (for our return trip), and our Singapore documents (ICs and J Boy’s birth certificate).
We also then had to start clearing out our groceries. Yes that’s a real problem – we don’t want to return to rotting food! There was a comb of green bananas that refused to ripen in the cool UK weather, so we actually packed the entire thing back to Singapore. 😛
We also started binge cooking and eating all our food that were due to expire in the time we’re away.
Day -1: Checking in at London Heathrow + Our Flight
Before we left home, we definitely had our anxieties. 1. Would the airline cancel our flight at the last minute? 2. Is the airport going to be crowded? 3. How long will we take to clear security? 4. Will we be able to get an Uber, and is it safe to call for one?
We were lucky that everything turn out well eventually. Our Uber driver arrived within 2 minutes of booking, and he had erected a shield from the passengers. We also managed to arrive at the airport in less than half an hour, when it usually would take 45 minutes at that time (we left home at 8.30am).
There were so few travellers that the airport felt so empty. Have you ever seen London Heathrow so empty? It was a sight to behold!
We almost couldn’t check in
We were able to get check-in service immediately, and J Boy and I were given the clear almost immediately. However, when it came to Daddy Sean, who is holding a Malaysian passport, it started becoming tricky. We had proof that he was a Singapore PR, but the airline staff insisted that he needed a pre-approved MTI form. (I later learnt that only people holding foreign passports required that form.) After a nerve-wrecking 15 minutes, they received verification from Singapore side that PRs do not need to submit that form, so Daddy Sean could fly! Phew!
I was surprised that the airline staff at LHR were unaware of this though.
Clearing security was swift and smooth
Because there were so few travellers, we were able to clear security immediately. We made a beeline to our gate since all restaurants were closed (which was kind of a bummer because we couldn’t get hot water for J Boy’s milk).
On the way, there were multiple reminders for us to keep our safety 2m distance from others. The reminders had replaced all the billboards within the airport.
It was also a relief to see people sparsely distributed at the gate. The airline also made an announcement that everyone had to wear face masks throughout the flight. With only 20-odd people booked for the flight, we boarded the aircraft within 5 minutes once the gate opened. They also distributed face masks at the gate.
The flight home was thankfully uneventful
We had reserved our seats close to the back of the plane because there was enough space to spread out. We also wanted to be as far away from others as possible, so our seats had at least a 3-row radius away from others. To our pleasant surprise, there were only 2 other people on our section of the plane.
Our flight took off 15 minutes earlier than scheduled. Once everyone was on board, off we went!
All the cabin crew had face masks on throughout the flight, and made sure they served us with gloves on. They were also very friendly, and made sure we were comfortable throughout the flight, since we were travelling with a toddler. Due to the situation, there were no kid-friendly meals on the flight – J Boy ate the same food as we did.
I was able sleep on an entire separate row during the flight, with J Boy walking over to disturb me occasionally. 😅
In the next post, I will talk more about our stay-home notice (SHN) in our assigned hotel.