Travel planning in the COVID-19 era is a chore, at best. After a few trips, I learned not to stress. Things either work, or they don’t, and canceling of previously planned flights has been a common occurrence. Sometimes it’s an airline schedule change, sometimes it’s a country changing entry requirements, and sometimes it’s a mix of factors and it’s easier to throw in the towel.
A couple days ago I received an email from United ahead of a planned trip to Kosovo to visit friends. At first glace, having a place that tells you exactly what you need for your particular itinerary seems ideal. It’s also ideal to be able to provide any documentation ahead of time to streamline the process with the airline. However, after reviewing the United “Travel Ready” Center, I was a bit perplexed.
United Travel Ready Center – Less Than Helpful
The email clearly stated that my itinerary has COVID-19 testing or entry requirements. That I knew. Kosovo currently requires a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of entry or a vaccination card 30+ days old. I also knew that the airports I was transiting might have testing requirements and I still needed to follow up on that.
Short story: I need to be tested before I leave, and I’ve scheduled this appropriately.
However, clicking through to the United Travel Ready webpage, I was presented with info that didn’t jive.
No test required? Further below, United remarks that U.S. citizens are subject to quarantine upon arrival. This does not match what I’ve read. I don’t want to show up at the airport assuming I don’t need a test when I actually do. Nor is taking a 11-day trip reasonable when I’d have to quarantine for 14 days.
Doing a little review of my own of the State Department website, government sites for Vienna and Copenhagen airports, and other info sources, I did not come to the same conclusion that United does. Here is what I found:
- A negative COVID-19 PCR test performed within the past 72 hours, or a positive serological antibody test issued 30+ days before arrival, or a vaccination certificate issued 30+ days before arrival, is required for entry into Kosovo.
- Denmark requires a COVID-19 PCR test performed within the past 72 hours for entry or vaccination certificate (unsure I need this, but I may, as CPH-VIE is an intra-EU flight)
- Depending on where you are traveling from into Austria, you may need a COVID-19 PCR test performed within the past 72 hours for entry or a vaccination certificate
- U.S. State Department Site for the U.S. Embassy in Kosovo
- U.S. State Department Site for the U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Denmark
- U.S. State Department Site for the U.S. Embassy in Austria
I am in transit through Copenhagen and Vienna, so it may be that nothing is truly required here. United may be right. The incorrect information for Kosovo is perplexing, though.
To their credit, United does remark that I should “check the requirements for your other airline.” I definitely will, although it’s the country requirements that are far more important.
Restrictions can change by the day. This summer was pretty stable for many countries, but the increasing case load is obviously causing worry for many. My friend literally just let me know that there are increasing restrictions again in Kosovo that may impact the trip. Gonna play things by ear until I leave, although it’s coming up really soon.
The fact that things change quickly is another reason it seems unwise to trust the airlines on this. They need a team of people to constantly monitor country and airline requirements, understand and digest them appropriately, and then get these programmed quickly and accurately into United’s system. I’m not saying it’s impossible. I just can’t imagine that United (or other airlines) can successfully keep up with everything all the time. It may also be that the “logic” in the system is flawed.
Kosovo lays out what is required for entry as a U.S. citizen. United tells me differently. I’m going to go with the country over the airline.