The airline with the best average rating is China Airlines with 8.3/10.
The average flight time is 13 hours and 51 minutes.More information
Welcome to my inaugural flight report.
I'd like to share my experience flying from the world's most COVID-infected country (i.e. the US) to one of the least (i.e. Taiwan, which never had to go through lockdown and has fewer than 1000 cumulative cases as of publication time).
Disclaimer: there may be fewer pictures here than in other peoples' reports.I didn't initially plan to post this, and felt pretty paranoid about constantly touching my phone, or reasons that'll become clear later…
I'm hoping to share a couple more flights in this trip, including a domestic roundtrip within Taiwan and my return flight to the US.
My trip starts at San Francisco International airport on November 27, 2020 — the day after Thanksgiving in the US.
COVID-19 was beginning to spike again, and California would re-enter the strictest tier of lockdown a few days after my departure. Thanksgiving is the most popular travel season in the US, and nationwide flight volumes in the days before my departure were quite high according to Transportation Security Administration data.
Check-in was a rude but unsurprising awakening. From looking at the seat map before, I knew this flight would be close to full.
Accordingly — a massive crowd snaked towards the United checkin counters, with UA employees doublechecking whether folks met the requisite entry requirements. United lumped together two flights into one check-in line: one flight for Taiwan, the other for China. This caused some confusion as Taiwan and China have different entry requirements.
Unfortunately I have no pictures of this. I was too preoccupied navigating the crowd and showing my documentation.
Taiwan's entry requirements at the time were as follows:
1. Be a Taiwanese passport holder. No COVID-19 test needed (this would change 3 days after my departure). If not a Taiwanese passport holder: obtain a special Visa or have residency status, and have a COVID-19 PCR test from the past 72 hours. Otherwise you're not allowed to enter.
2. Fill out a health declaration and quarantine form on the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control/Ministry of Health website. This form testifies that you don't have COVID-19 symptoms, and is where you declare your quarantine location + phone number for tracking purposes.
3. Upon arrival in Taiwan, quarantine in either a gov't designated hotel or at home for 14 days. During this time, the gov't will text you every day to check in, call you by voice, and track your phone's GPS to ensure you don't leave your quarantine location.
Anyone who's interested in what Taiwan's quarantine procedures looked like during 2020 can look through this slide deck (which I did not create) for more details.
After getting checked in, I sped through security and headed towards my gate. I didn't have lounge access.
Here are some scenes from inside SFO.
There were a smattering of United birds, alongside ANA and Air India 777s (presumably for Tokyo Narita and Delhi, respectively).
I spent a bit of time in an outside terrace instead of milling about indoors.
At around 10am, it was time for boarding. Again, I did not take pictures of the boarding gate waiting area, but it was CROWDED.
Here's what the plane looked like moments after boarding and receiving a complimentary purell alcohol sanitary wipe.
The cabin crew announced over the PA that we would have a 100% full flight.
Well, I got what I paid for.
United flights were more than twice as cheap as flights from Taiwanese carriers EVA Air and China Airlines (CAL).
EVA and CAL both socially distance passengers and don't fill flights to 100% capacity. As I learned that day, United definitely will sell every seat of its flights if it can.
So it goes.
Another shot of the economy cabin on UA871. 100% full. This made me reluctant to move around/take my phone out too much.
I didn't take a picture of the Inflight Entertainment offerings — but they were rather sparse. UA international flights usually have a decent array of new international films. There were close to none on this flight. That made sense—few new movies premiered in 2020.
Not long after an uneventful takeoff, lunch was served. It consistent of a "Spanish style" chicken rice with some sort of grain and lettuce side, bread, rice crackers, and vanilla ice cream. The taste was acceptable. The ice cream, fortunately, was not frozen rock solid like I've experienced on other UA international flights. I tried to eat (in a maskless state) slightly after when my immediate seatmates ate. But when your flight is 100% full, you can only do so much.
Sometime a couple hours into the flight we got this snack sandwich. It was decent but not memorable.
Shortly before landing we also got a breakfast, consisting of your standard airplane omelette. I think I was way too fatigued at that point, and completely forgot to take a picture.
We landed at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport without incident. Here is the terminal moments after our 100% full flight disgorged its passengers. You can't even tell this is during a pandemic.
Welcome to Taiwan!
After arriving - those who do not have a local Taiwanese number needed to purchase a SIM card. There were desks set up to do this. This was required so the government can track you during quarantine.
If you already have a local Taiwanese phone number, you would get automatically receive a text asking you to open a confirmation screen for the health declaration and quarantine form you filled out online, before your flight. You mention your flight number in this form, so the government just knows to text you after your flight arrives.
There were representatives from Taiwan's CDC standing about to verify your confirmation screen. Once verified, they moved you onto another area where another CDC representative confirms and explains the details of your quarantine procedure.
After this moment I would depart on a specially booked taxi to undergo my 14 day home quarantine.
I'll share more photos of what life in (relatively) COVID-free Taiwan looked like in further reports. If you're really impatient though, you can look at the tourism bonus for a quick preview :)
Thanks for reading!
Welcome to the Taipei Zoo!
This was probably one of the few zoos open in the world with crowds during November 2020.
I didn't actually go inside; I just happened to hike by it after my quarantine ended, and took pictures to show friends back in the US.
Even with the lack of COVID-19 local transmission at the time, Taiwan remained fairly vigilant. Entry to the zoo was controlled according to registration by your national ID, and everyone wore masks in public.
Wow, what a unique once-in-a-lifetime experience.
It's hard to give a rating here, I gave a low "cabin" rating for UA because it was 100% full, and boy did my paranoia spike. But I chose to take this flight; I could've not gone or gone on a different day. Other than that... my verdict is kind of arbitrary given the overall extenuating pandemic circumstances.
Also, I did not end up getting COVID-19 on this flight. Yay.