Traveling Across the Pond
by Air Journey Founder Thierry Pouille
What’s the latest for those wanting to fly their airplane across the Pond? Let’s review the most recent developments and what has changed in the few years since the start of the pandemic. Even though we are experiencing another surge in positive COVID cases within the United States, the world is moving forward in hopes of returning to business as usual.
The travel industry has taken notice of this urge for normalcy, as have countries looking to bring tourism back in full swing. Many countries have removed their COVID-19 entry restrictions; whether it be testing prior to arrival, testing on arrival, additional tests during your stay, health entry forms, health tracking requests, quarantining requirements, mask wearing and more. The United States is one of the few countries that continues to request proof of a negative COVID test, taken within 24hrs of your entry into the country, for all travelers, regardless of their status, reasons for travel, or crew, no exceptions.
We have noticed an increase in countries who have changed their definition of fully-vaccinated status. Various countries, Spain being one, consider someone to be fully-vaccinated if the person received their most recent dose within 270 days of their arrival into the country. This requirement is something we are keeping an eye on. Something to keep in mind, should your original vaccine be expired, your new dose will need to be administered outside of 14 days before your travel plans.
Now to study our route and the newest expectations.
Canada re-opened their borders to fully vaccinated travelers from the United States in August of 2021. They have implemented an ArriveCAN app and web portal program that must be completed prior to arrival in order to be eligible for entry into the country. Those who are unvaccinated are still unable to travel for tourist, or even crew, travel. If your planned travel is with a non-vaccinated traveler, they are able to join you on the flight, however, they must remain in the aircraft during any stops in Canada – they are not permitted to disembark for any reason – even if only to use the restroom. Travelers entering as crew were previously provided entry into the country regardless of their vaccination status, with certain restrictions, but Canada has since removed this exception.
Flying into and within Canada remains fairly similar to that of pre-Covid times. CANPass is still required – you may or may not physically encounter a Customs Agent upon landing at your port of entry but you must remain in the airplane until cleared. One noticeable difference, in addition to the ArriveCAN requirement, is the increase in the NAVCANADA fees for use of their airspace.
Then comes fuel. All are experiencing sticker shock at the price of fuel these days and Jet Fuel is no exception. Just last month, a departure out of Quebec City, Canada, for our Journey to Europe saw $11 a gallon for jet fuel. Ouch. Unfortunately, these heightened fuel costs can be expected in almost all destinations. Fuel prices of other destinations on our route include Reykjavik, Iceland at $4.50/gallon, Bergen, Norway, at $6.23/gallon, and Bilbao, Spain, $6.10/gallon to name a few.
But are there any perks of traveling now-a-days? We promise there are! Several properties in Canada’s larger cities used the slowdown in tourism to make refurbishments and to improve their amenities for our benefit. The Fairmont Chateau Frontenac, in Quebec City, was one of them. The grand dame of the city is centrally located in town, situated just above the charming streets of old Quebec easily accessible by a funicular at the steps of the hotel. Quebec City is an ideal launching point for a crossing due to its location allowing for multiple alternative options within northern Canada and Greenland should weather become a factor.
Typically our first stop after Canada, when crossing the North Atlantic, is Greenland. There are a total of 17 airports in Greenland but only a few are usable with a jet. Kangerlussuaq is our primary choice. It is further to the north from the common track across the Atlantic, however, it often provides the best weather conditions. In addition, Kangerlussuaq offers an approach and radar. Narsarsuaq, to the south, is only an advisory control tower but also provides a long runway. Greenland’s capital Nuuk has a paved runway but it’s just over 3,000ft runway is not for everyone. Good news on Nuuk though, they are building a new airport with a longer runway – making it more usable for jets. The rest of the airports in Greenland are either paved and short or gravel runways not ideal for jet aircraft.
Looking for a tourist destination in Greenland? Look no further than Ilulissat, in Greenland’s Disko Bay. Famous for its icefjord, Ilulissat’s location above the Arctic Circle provides one of the most amazing natural sights you will experience. Massive icebergs floating in the bay, glistening against the water below – truly breathtaking. Ilulissat has a paved runway, but it too is just over 3,000ft, limiting its use for some aircraft. They have announced an extension of the runway to be completed in the near future.
Hotel options in Ilulissat continue to expand with new properties in the works. Hotel Arctic is our top choice and considered to be the most high-end of them all at the moment. Set out on a discovery cruise of the icefjord, a must-do. For the adventurous type, join a kayak tour around these enormous icebergs or venture out of the many hiking trails marked in different difficulty levels. The newly opened Icefjord Centre – Kangiata Illorsua – provides an architecturally stunning building filled with information on Greenland’s people, land, and beauty.
Depending on the range, route, speed and winds for that day, some aircraft are able to bypass Greenland and fly direct to Reykjavik, Iceland, from northern Canada. Reykjavik’s main airport Kleflavik provides a lengthy runway and airport amenities in a remote location about 50 minutes outside of downtown Reykjavik. Suitable for an overnight, the area provides the typical airport hotels and is in proximity to Iceland’s famous Blue Lagoon. However, Keflavik’s distance from town is not ideal for those looking to experience the culture and food scene of Iceland’s western coast. We recommend Reykjavik City Airport for a more convenient location. Only 10 minutes from the downtown area, within minutes you are walking the streets of Reykjavik exploring the delicacies of the region.
The newest hotel in downtown Reykjavik is the Reykjavik EDITION hotel, part of the Marriott chain), which opened in November 2021. Marriott is not the only hotel chain n the area – Hilton and Radisson are present as well. The lesser known KEA Hotels, an Icelandic hotel chain, provides centrally located downtown options within walking distance to all of the area’s highlights.
Reykjavik’s food scene has put Iceland on the map for delicious gastronomy. Our favorites include the Fish Market, the Fish Company and the Grill Market. All three offer a blended mix of Icelandic delicacies combined with international food fair. You certainly won’t go hungry in Reykjavik.
As we continue on an eastward heading, we are met with a variety of options on where to fly next. More commonly the United Kingdom is the next stop on a crossing of the Atlantic. An unexpected option is Bergen, Norway. Famous for its fjords, the approach into Bergen provides views of the magnificent landscape intertwined with the dark blue water below.
Bergen, Norway, stayed awake during the downtime and stepped up its hotel offerings and food scene. The newly opened Louis XII is centrally located to provide walking accessibility to the surrounding area and highlights.
From here, Europe is your oyster. When flying your own airplane you gain access to destinations off the beaten path. We recommend skipping the capital cities and finding remote locations. Opting for smaller, less trafficked, airports lowers the expensive handling costs typically found in main airports with commercial traffic.
For example, Ostend, Belgium. Located on the channel, Ostend airport has improved its offerings to the general aviation community. A very up-to-date FBO and handling services provide a warm welcome for visitors looking to explore Bruges, what many consider the “Venice of the north.”
From Norway or the United Kingdom, whichever route you choose, there are so many options on where to go next. Amsterdam with its picturesque canals, Copenhagen with its bicycles galore, Luxembourg, San Sebastian on Spain’s mainland, or the small Balearic island of Menorca, the options are endless.
Need help planning? Don’t hesitate to give us a call! And keep an eye on Air Journey’s website to see the latest destinations we offer (www.airjourney.com).