Many of us have put future vacation plans on hold, but with seven countries – Cyprus, Greece, Switzerland, Croatia, Turkey and Estonia – welcoming tourists back this summer, your next getaway might be sooner than you think.
But before you start booking your tickets, you have to keep in mind that flying during a pandemic will look very different to your previous trip.
I recently travelled back to the UK and overall found the experience surreal and surprising.
At the airport
When the taxi pulled up to Dubai Airport Terminal 3, it was the only vehicle in sight. The usually packed drop off zone was deserted to the point where you’d be forgiven for thinking that the airport was closed. Once we proceeded inside the airport, the eerie emptiness felt a little overwhelming – after all, this used to be one of the busiest places in the country. Before we reached Emirates check-in desk, we walked through a temperature scanner and received a small box containing gloves, masks, sanitising gel and sanitising wipes. The check-in staff sit behind a clear protective barrier wearing masks and gloves and as the airport only served a handful of flights a day, the check-in process was very speedy, as were passport control and security check.
Duty Free, restaurants and other outlets were closed which highlighted how much these spaces add to the general atmosphere of an airport. All the stalls were covered in plastic, the lights were off and no music was playing. You could only get something to eat from Costa or a vending machine.
Throughout the airport there were social distancing dots reminding passengers to stay 2 metres apart, including when it was time to board. Usually you’d see a long line of eager passengers waiting for the boarding announcement, but now everyone remains seated until their designated zone is announced. The waiting area has certain seats sectioned off to maintain 2 metre distance between travellers.
During the flight
On board the plane, which has been fully sanitised, you are encouraged not to use overhead lockers and store everything under the seat in front of you. Passengers are spaced out with at least one gap between seats. I used to rejoice at getting a whole row to ourselves to snooze on during the flight, but now crew members dressed in full PPE discourage you from lying down. You also can’t gather in social areas or stroll up and down the aisles, and you must keep your mask on throughout the entire flight. However, the food service seemed the same as usual.
Remember that eagerness to jump up as soon as the engine is off to grab your bags and squeeze down as close to the door as possible? Well that’s over for now. You have to remain seated until the row in front of you has started moving towards the exit in order to maintain safe distance.
Despite my initial worries, the whole journey felt safe and comfortable with staff on the ground and on board doing their upmost to protect travellers during these unprecedented times. I would suggest not making any non-essential travel, but there’s no need to be worried if you do plan to get on a plane in the next few weeks.
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