Our trip to Ecuador and Galapagos started with a lot of unknowns. Since this was our first travel experience since the beginning of the Covid pandemic, we weren’t sure of what to expect, especially once we got to the airport.
We arrived at Terminal 1 of Toronto’s Pearson International Airport well ahead of our 11:30am departure. As we pulled into the passenger unloading area it was already evident that things had changed. There were less than a dozen cars scattered along the length of the terminal. We unloaded our luggage and proceeded into the sprawling terminal which seemed eerily empty save for small clusters of passengers at a handful of the check-in counters that were open.
We had opted to fly Business Class given that the Covid related discount was equivalent to normal economy rates, so we took advantage of the expedited check-in and made our way through the deserted terminal to security. Security was just as empty as the rest of the terminal and we were able to get through in no time at all. The only additional step was a contactless temperature check.
Once through security, we took advantage of another Business Class perk and made our way up to the Star Alliance lounge to spend the next hour. The lounge had been reconfigured so that there were only single seats spaced the required 2 metres apart. Arrows on the floor guided the direction of traffic flow and despite the fact that there were only 6 other people in the lounge, we followed the arrows, picked a seat and proceeded to the breakfast area where we were provided with prepackaged yogurt along with fruit parfaits and granola bars.
An hour prior to our flight we left the lounge to make the long journey to the end of the terminal. We walked the seemingly endless, empty corridor towards our gate at the far end of the terminal. None of the stores, restaurants and kiosks that are normally bustling with people were open.
The first signs of any large groupings of people were when we arrived at our gate, where the normal 2 metre social distancing protocol did not seem to be in place, although everyone was wearing masks.
As we scanned our boarding cards and started onto the jetway, we were stopped by Canadian Border authorities who were doing a currency check of each passenger to ensure that we were not carrying more than $10,000 CDN.
We settled into our very roomy and comfortable seats and shortly after, the aircraft pulled away from the jetway. While the Business Class section of the plane was less than half full, economy seemed to be at full capacity. We had a pleasant 5 hour flight from Toronto to our connecting airport in Panama, though even in Business Class the meal service was limited to water and a boxed lunch.
Once in Panama, we left the relative safety of the Boeing 737 and entered the chaotic Panama Airport terminal that was teeming with people. Though everyone was wearing masks, social distancing was impossible because of the sheer numbers. Since we were in the international terminal for connecting passengers, we were able to proceed to our gate without having to go through security or other checks. For those passengers whose final destination was Panama, they were directed to Covid screening centers where they needed to show proof of a Negative PCR test. For those who did not have a test, multiple booths were set up with medical technicians who were conducting on-site testing.
After determining where our departing gate was located, we searched for a quiet place to sit and eat a take-out pizza that we had purchased from one of the airport restaurants.
While we waited for our boarding time, we received 3 different notifications from Copa airlines changing our departure gate all within 20 minutes of our initial boarding time. Fortunately, the area that we had found to sit was only a few gates away from where we needed to be.
Our full flight left right on time and after a relatively quick 1 ½ hours of flying, we arrived in Quito, Ecuador. As soon as we deplaned we were led to a screening area where we were asked to sit in socially distanced seats to have our temperature taken and provide documents to prove Negative PCR tests which were then stamped. Our pre-filled Health declaration forms were also collected and then we were asked to proceed to customs.
The customs process was fairly routine and after providing our documents, which were validated and stamped we had our photos taken before we could make our way to the baggage area. Our bags had been tagged with red priority stickers since we had flown Business Class, but they were still among the last bags that came off the carousel. It turned out that the highly visible, red priority tags had been hidden under our destination tags and were missed by the luggage crew.
After exiting the baggage area, we were greeted by our pre-arranged driver, Tony. As he led us out of the airport terminal, we had another temperature check at the exit. He then led us to his car where he sprayed our hands with alcohol and disinfected our shoes. He drove us the 45 minutes to the NH Collection Hotel in the Quito downtown area.
Tony unloaded our bags which were carried into the hotel by the concierge. Before we were allowed to enter we underwent a temperature check and were provided with sanitizing gel for our hands.
The lobby was empty except for the concierge and the night manager at reception. We checked in and were directed to our room on the 16th floor. As we hadn’t eaten since the snack in Panama and it was now approaching 10:00pm, we ordered some appetizers from room service, unpacked our bags and went to bed, looking forward to our city tour of Quito the next morning.
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Sharing Our Travel Dreams
Sharing our personal experiences onboard and on the road, along with tips and insight for creating memorable vacations.