In the spirit of research (and a desperate need to go on holiday), two of the team here at Original Travel have been away in the last week, and in true Top Gear challenge fashion, they can report back on what it's really like flying and taking the Eurotunnel at the moment. Read on for part one as our travel expert, Nadine, takes to the skies for a trip to Malaga...
- Return flights from London Gatwick to Malaga
- Travelling with EasyJet
- Myself and my sister travelling
- Travelled before the 10th July and the announcement of the relaxation of quarantine for certain countries
We had a 06:00 departure from London Gatwick on a Wednesday morning which turned out to be the first flight to depart that day so the airport was eerily quiet. Everyone (both staff and travellers) was wearing facemasks, there were hand sanitiser stations dotted around everywhere and the process of navigating through security was incredibly quick.
Once through security, everyone remained socially distanced in their seats wearing their face masks - there was SO much space to spread out across the terminal. At that time, only Boots and WHSmith were open, with Boots operating a one-way system and limiting the number of people in the shop at any one time.
Looking at the departure board it was listing all the flights operating that day rather than the normal situation of only seeing the flights departing in the next couple of hours. I don't think I've ever been at the airport so early and seen the details of a flight departing at 21:00!
During the Flight
EasyJet aren't filling their flights at the moment, so at the boarding gate it was still possible to socially distance before we boarded the plane. They boarded the plane from the back so the back ten rows boarded first. You have to scan your boarding pass yourself and show your passport to the airport staff - you don't hand anything over to them. We had seats booked next to each other and there was another passenger meant to be sitting next to us too but as the plane wasn't fully booked, there was space to be able to move and remain socially distanced which the cabin crew had no problem with (and it was the same on the way back, too). The cabin crew can also provide you with a face mask if you don't have your own.
No food or drinks were served on the flight so you will need to bring your own from home but you can fill your water bottle up at the airport or purchase snacks from the shops that are open and the cabin crew will still take your rubbish. The toilets were operating too, but you are not allowed to queue.
When we landed, the cabin crew advised us that passengers had to disembark row by row to collect their bags etc and other passengers have to remain seated to try and keep a social distance on the plane. Obviously as soon as the seatbelt signs went off people jumped up to get their bags even though they couldn't go anywhere... some things never change!
In Malaga airport, it was compulsory to wear a face mask. Passport control was quick and I think about five people had checked luggage into the hold so by the time we got to luggage collection, all the bags were out on the conveyor belt already.
There was a form we had to complete with details of where we were staying, and various coronavirus-related questions. We had taken a form to complete on the flight but you can complete at the airport too. You then have to hand the form to airport staff for them to look through and they then have a heat detection camera for you to walk past to check your temperature. We can expect something similar at UK airports soon, apparently.
Travelling back was very much the same story. Weirdly there seemed to be more hand sanitisers in departures than arrivals at both airports which I don't think makes much sense. In Malaga airport there was only one cafe open (and Duty Free was open in both airports). Arriving back into Gatwick, we had to complete a form for coming back to the UK. We did ours online which saved a lot of time as no one else had so we got through passport control very quickly. If you don't do it online, you have to complete it with an immigration officer there. Otherwise there was absolutely nothing else for us to do, no temperature checks or anything.
Long story short, I was totally comfortable travelling and just followed the guidelines. As long as you're sensible about it then there shouldn't really be a problem. I also didn't actually find it that bad having to wear a facemask for so long (a reminder they only work for four hours at a time so take enough to be able to change if need be!).
Some airlines are supposedly only allowing passengers to take hand luggage and only bags that can fit under the seat as they won't be using overhead lockers. In short, good for people to check with the airlines they are flying with if there are any new luggage policies, and we will, of course, keep you up to date with the latest regulations before you fly.
Finally, EasyJet are also using anti-viral and bacterial cleaning products to disinfect the aircrafts and ask passengers not to wipe the tables etc down themselves. As a result, I don't think I'd ever seen such a clean plane.
Oh, one last thing - both our flights landed earlier than expected. In fact, we landed 50 minutes earlier in the UK than we were originally due to land. That's a first!
Click here for part two, as our Africa expert Matt flies to France then journeys back again on the Eurotunnel...