7 things to know about flying after lockdown
It’s safe to say that the travel industry has probably taken the biggest hit from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Travel was marked as one of the main factors for the spread of the disease. This resulted in many countries closing their borders to visitors and many airlines grounding their planes.
However, as some countries begin to open up after lockdown, there may still be hope for the travel industry.
After a prolonged period of lockdown in London, we made the journey back to Venice on 1 July 2020.
I want to make clear that this wasn’t a trip for leisure. We’ve a residence in Italy and were essentially moving back home.
This is our flying after lockdown experience.
1. At the airport
We flew from London Heathrow Terminal 5, the main base of our airline, British Airways.
Arriving slightly earlier than we normally would, the airport wasn’t as busy as we’d expected. Typically, for a flight from London to Venice, we’d arrive an hour and a half before; this time we upped it to two.
Before entering the terminal building, we were already wearing our masks. British Airways advises passengers to bring a spare set in case of any delays.
The first noticeable change was the hand sanitizer stations on site almost immediately upon entering.
Everyone has to clean their hands before proceeding to their designated zone.
There were staff at hand to monitor that passengers were following procedures. I even spotted a member of staff clean down some passengers’ bags before entering.
Check-in — flying after lockdown
All of the self-service check-in stands in Terminal 5 were out of use. Instead, members of staff direct you to your appropriate zone and you need to do your check-in there.
This is due to new measures, whereby members of staff will take your temperature before you join the line. If yours is unusually high, you won’t be allowed to board.
Only once we’d seen the new system, did we understand why the online check-in option wasn’t available.
The lines for each zone seemed long, but only because people were trying to social distance. Floor markings were in place to help maintain the measures, and most passengers adhered to them.
2. New regulations
Gone are the days (for now) when you could bring your hand luggage on board. Overhead compartments are currently out of use to help implement social distancing and to also reduce unnecessary movement.
The only thing you can take is a bag that fits beneath your seat. All hand luggage is checked in for free.
When flying to Italy, every passenger has to fill out a health declaration form. You don’t have to fill it out while in the line, but you should complete it before you reach your gate.
The information includes your name, passport number, your address in Italy and your phone number.
Other destinations will most likely have something similar, so allow enough time to complete this.
People waiting in London Heathrow Terminal 5 — flying after lockdown
“I want to make clear that this wasn’t a trip for leisure.”
3. Limited places to eat
At the time of traveling, there was only one place open for passengers to get (proper) food and drink.
Pret A Manger is a UK-based eatery that serves organic hot drinks, freshly-made juices, soups and sandwiches. It’s also the best place to get an Italian-style breakfast when you’ve an early morning flight.
Strangely enough, Pret was the only place open where you could get something (decent) to eat and drink.
There’s a 20-limit person when inside the area, meaning you’ve to form a line. Again, from afar, it seemed that the line went on for eternity because of social distancing.
However, it moved pretty quickly, and I’d say we waited for about 6 minutes before getting served.
I found it strange that the airport didn’t open another food establishment; Starbucks Coffee was directly opposite. It would’ve helped to alleviate the lines and improve social distancing.
Oddly enough, nearly all the high-end designer stores like Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Prada were open. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’d much rather take a coffee than a designer handbag — especially at 7.30am.
Tax-free shopping — flying after lockdown
I ventured into the tax-free shopping, simply out of curiosity and because it’s been a long time.
Arrow markings on the floor indicate the direction that shoppers should move around in.
There seemed to be less members of staff around, but all in all, it was quiet, and an anxiety-free experience.
Practicing social distancing while lining up at Pret A Manger
4. At the gate
My anxiety increased slightly once I saw the swathes of people already at our gate. Given the closeness of the seating arrangements, it wasn’t really possible to practice social distancing.
Instead, we decided to wait separately in a less crowded area and go once our seat numbers were called.
Another thing that I noticed, was the lack of markings on the floor (by the gates). It made it more difficult for people to try and maintain a safe distance.
In my opinion, Heathrow could have improved this process by using 2 gate areas rather than 1. It would have greatly reduced the number of people having no choice but to stay close to one other.
Time to board
Boarding the plane is now done by your seat number, starting with the back first.
Though this is what they did in the past, it’s far stricter now. If your number hasn’t been called, you’ll be turned away if you try to board earlier.
Because of this, we also found the boarding process to be much slower than pre-Covid-19.
One more thing to add is about people who board late. There’s always one, or 5, that board when everyone’s already been long seated.
However, on this occasion I didn’t see any latecomers, so maybe the rules have changed regarding this too.
Trying to maintain social distancing wasn’t always easy
5. On the plane
Our plane was an Airbus A321neo. Given that this was a European flight, I wasn’t surprised to see a smaller aircraft.
Upon boarding, the air stewards hand you a personal protective equipment (PPE) kit. Inside, is an anti-bacterial wipe and some hand sanitizer gel. I used the wipe to clean my tray table and arm rest. You can always ask for more if you need it.
I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t disappointed that our 3-seater row wasn’t just for us two. Many of the rows seemed to be filled with people from the same family / household.
If pressed, I’d say that the plane was around 85% full. Naturally, our masks stayed on for the entire flight.
Not a regular service — flying after lockdown
The usual food and drink on-board service was unavailable. Instead, we were given a pre-packed plastic bag containing a small bottle of water, potato chips and some cookies.
There was also no airline magazine (my favorite) or any tax-free shopping magazine in the seat holder.
When using the toilets, they advised us to wait for the green vacant light before leaving our seat. This was to ensure that there was no waiting in line around other passengers.
However, I found this was nearly impossible to implement, and saw many people inevitably waiting closely together.
Personally, I think that BA should’ve allowed all passengers to use the toilets in the business class area — albeit temporarily. This would’ve better dealt with the flow of passengers.
If you’re able to hold it until you reach the airport terminal, then do.
Ready to fly from London to Venice after lockdown
6. The landing
As with boarding the plane, you also have to disembark according to your seat number. It’s a slow, but necessary, new step.
Arriving at Venice Marco Polo Airport was a quiet affair. Aside from our flight, there was another that arrived after us from Munich.
We all had to use the e-gates to scan our passport. There was also a member of staff holding up a temperature scanner to monitor all new arrivals.
A very quiet scene at Venice Marco Polo Airport
7. Did I feel safe flying after lockdown?
Above all, I did feel safe traveling after lockdown.
With the new regulations in place, and an increase in hand sanitzer stations, I didn’t feel as anxious as I’d expected.
Also, the fact that everyone had to keep their masks on in the airport and on the plane greatly helped.
I would’ve liked to seen better handling of the number of people at the gates, and more spacing on the plane.
However, I don’t regret making the journey.
While there aren’t any current quarantine restrictions in place for new arrivals in Italy, we took the decision to self-quarantine.
We’re very mindful that Covid-19 is still around, and we want to protect our family and friends as much as possible.
How do you feel about traveling (abroad) again? Do you feel safe, or ready, to fly after lockdown? Or do you prefer to wait a little longer? Let me know in the comments below.
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Welcome to my site! I'm Lisa, founder of Following the Rivera. I write primarily for a ‘flashpacker’ audience, a demographic (late 20s onward) that enjoys glamping over camping and staying at boutique/luxury boutique hotels. Flashpackers also like to indulge in the local food and wine, cultural activities, as well as a spot of wellness on their travels. Want to know more? Read on....