AT THE OUTSET of the COVID-19 pandemic, the US State Department authorized elective evacuation of Foreign Service officers and their dependents posted abroad. A consular-cone Foreign Service officer, Joey Leavitt, and his family braved ambiguous and ever-changing international immigration rules to travel from Dubai to Las Vegas in early April via London and Los Angeles. Leavitt rated and detailed their experience for us.
International Phone Calls: 7/10
I spent hours working the phones trying to figure out which route was least likely to get my family and me stuck in quarantine in a foreign country or an empty airport terminal with only a vending machine full of Cheetos for sustenance (actually this sounds okay). I like that now you can call anywhere in the world just by dialing a few numbers, and the reception is usually pretty good. I remember when we lived in Syria about fifteen years ago and we would call home with a calling card. When I would finally get a connection with my parents, there would be a twelve-second delay while my voice got routed around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was held up by protests in France, traveled across the Atlantic seabed, and then stopped for grits in southern Georgia. Things are way better now.
Airport Security: 9/10
Airport security in Dubai, our departure point, was just a guy who pointed a thermometer gun at our foreheads, waved us past, and did the same thing to the other twelve people in the airport. Then he sat down and watched YouTube videos on his phone. We still had to send our carry-ons through the scanner, but the conveyor belt made a weird, loud, echoey sound in the nearly empty chamber, and I felt like I was in a dream. It would have been a 10/10, but we still had to take off our shoes.
Aerotel Hotel Inside Heathrow: 5/10
Heathrow Terminal 5: 7/10
Shannon’s Cleaning Joke: 13/10
The Flights Themselves: 9/10