What to expect when travelling during COVID-19

The lovely Megan (Trade Sales Support Executive) embarked on a short haul flight from Heathrow in August and wanted to share all the details with you about what to expect in these ‘new normal’ times when venturing further afield than the living room.

In August I embarked on a foreign holiday, as a lover of travel having been cooped up at home for many months I was eager to get out exploring again, although a little hesitant at what this “new normal” travel would look like.

So as I headed to the airport mask donned I was filled with equal measures of excitement and anxiety. I was flying with BA from Heathrow Terminal 5 on a short haul flight and overall, I was really impressed with the set up. On arrival at the airport, discreet temperature checks were in place and hand sanitiser station were readily available. The current advice is not to arrive more than 2 hours before a short-haul flight and 3-hours for long-haul, and bag drop for flights don’t open prior to this, gone are the days where we arrive extra early to enjoy a bit of pre-flight shopping.

There was a little confusion as I arrived as a technical error had the board showing the same bag drop zone for all the upcoming flights so quite a long queue was starting to form and social distancing was proving to be challenging. The staff at Heathrow were quick to make their way along the queue and redirect passengers to the correct zones and reduce the line that was forming. Checking my bag in was certainly a different experience as these are mostly self-service now with staff (fully clad with masks or visors and gloves) roaming around to assist any passengers who needed it, but the process was very smooth and I found the machines easy to use. There were a few manned desks with protective screens fitted as well for anyone who preferred to have their bags checked in that way.

With my bag on the way to the plane it was now time for me to make my way through security. On the surface not too much had changed here, although staff were readily available to ensure social distancing and to direct us to the shorter queues, but they are also regularly deep cleaning all the security trays and again all staff were wearing masks and protective equipment.

Once through security it was time to explore what duty free and shopping options there were. I was really impressed as all the stores that were open operated a one-way system around the shop to encourage social distancing. Not all the shops were open but there was still a reasonable choice and some great offers to be had as well. Many of the restaurants were starting to open again, although for now they were just offering take-away service and throughout the airport they had taken time and care to manage the seating areas, with many seats showing signs like the below again to further maintain distancing.

It wasn’t long until it was time to board my flight and once I arrived at the gate we were invited to board a few rows at a time starting with the back of the plane, this worked really well and meant there wasn’t long queues or too much waiting around once we got onboard. The airline staff encourage you to use the airline app to save your boarding pass to your phone in order to limit contact, and only at the gate were we required to remove our masks while they checked our passport.

We were welcomed by the flight crew who again all wore masks and handed us each our personal protection kit (I flew with BA so I cannot comment on what other airlines are currently offering) which included an antibacterial wipe and a sachet of hand sanitiser. My flight wasn’t very full, so myself and most other passengers had a row of seats to ourselves which definitely eased some of the pre-flight worry. We were reminded by staff to keep our masks on throughout the flight and how to access help if we did become unwell in the duration of the journey. We were also reassured that new protocol means the plane is thoroughly deep-cleaned after every flight.

Once in the air we were advised not to queue for the toilets if we needed to use them, but to instead keep a watch from our seats until we saw they were vacant. I understand their thinking behind this protocol, but in practice, I’m not sure how well it worked, thankfully I didn’t need to test it out. We were also provided with a pre-packaged snack whilst onboard which included a small bottle of water, a packet of crisps and either a biscuit or pretzels. We were able to take our masks off to enjoy our snacks, which as my flight wasn’t too busy didn’t feel a risk at all. They have currently suspended all buy-onboard service so if you required anything additional to this you would need to bring this with you.

Most countries now have an online form to complete before arrival, with some also requiring a negative test result to enter, so do check what the current requirements are for where you are flying. For me I had completed the arrival form in advance, this was all done online and once completed, a QR code was generated that was then scanned. Once we disembarked, again this was done row by row, it was actually a really smooth process through border security where we had our temperatures tested again and then headed to the baggage collection area.

I have to say overall my journey was as stress-free as flying could be, you soon forgot you had a mask on and other changes were fairly minor and in some cases, it even improved the overall experience. I wouldn’t hesitate in flying again under these conditions in order to continue travelling the wonderful world and experiencing all it has to offer.

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