Now that Europe is back opening up to air travel again, after a 3 month hiatus due to the Coronavirus pandemic, how will flying now change? What new safety precautions can we expect at airports and on board as we take to the skies once more?
On 15 & 16 June 2020 most of the borders between European Union counties reopened, with air travel soon to follow. Most countries will allow unrestricted air travel, however, some countries like the UK and Eire will currently require incoming travellers to provide details of accommodation and self-isolate for 14 days.
Countries in mainland Europe do not require mandatory quarantine, but some suggest voluntary quarantine, as is the case with France. However, for all intents and purposes, we can safely say that European airlines are finally back in business.
Before you fly – what to know?
Most countries have similar new safety precautions in place when it comes to airports and air travel. Masks are required at all times for all passengers and new disinfection and air filtration systems have been implemented across the board.
When booking your flight check and see what special requirements are required by your airline. This will definitely include the wearing of face masks at all times, but may also include extra requirements for check-ins, for example, earlier check-ins at airports, or online check-in only. Do not forget to check if hand luggage is permitted by your airline or whether all baggage should be checked and stowed before or after passing airport security. Different airports in different countries may have special requirements, so check beforehand and save any unnecessary stress on the day.
Lastly, passengers with passport restrictions or visa requirements for their destination country should check thoroughly beforehand whether there are any extra requirements before departure and/or on arrival.
At the airport – what to expect?
We can expect that almost all airports will be a passenger only. This means that only passengers with a valid boarding pass will be permitted entry to the terminal building. Family and friends will no longer, for the immediate future, be allowed entry to wave their goodbyes. Airports may also change the amount of time permitted at the “kiss and fly” parking zones, so be prepared for changes.
Similarly, upon arrival, people wishing to welcome passengers will not be permitted in the airport building for some time and travellers meeting people on arrival should be extra careful when arranging appointments to meet each other.
All passengers can also expect to have a quick health test in the form of a temperature check before being permitted entry to the terminal. This simple, non-invasive test takes only seconds and is the simplest method of checking whether someone is currently suffering from the most prevalent symptom of COVID-19, an elevated temperature.
At the airport, we can expect that everything will be done to adhere to social distancing rules. Passengers can expect to be fast-tracked at security and this is one area where passengers can help by preparing themselves in advance by following baggage content rules for liquids, metals, etc., to avoid any undue delays.
Once inside the airport terminal, everything will appear new. Airports have spent months disinfecting and cleaning to ensure travellers’ safety. Many airports have upgraded their air treatment systems to remove more bacteria and possible viruses than ever before.
Changes on board – how will flying be different?
The first thing that passengers will notice upon boarding their plane is that all cabin crew will be wearing protective clothing, i.e. masks and gloves. This may make it a bit more difficult for passengers to understand staff whose native language is not English. Try and relax and be patient, don’t feel afraid to point to explain yourself. On board we will only be able to see each other’s eyes, but we can still convey a lot of information quickly and easily.
All airplanes are now regularly disinfected, with crews working quickly and efficiently between flights to ensure maximum cleanliness. Airplanes have also been fitted with HEPA standard air filtration systems. These systems filter out between 99.95% and 99.97% of particles 3 micrometres width or more. For comparison, the average width of a strand of hair is 80 micrometres.
Passengers can also expect seating to be straddled, with different airlines and countries employing different systems to ensure the maximum social distancing from other passengers. This will be good news to many, meaning more leg room, more elbow room, and more room for a relaxing snooze on board.
Drinks and food may also be served differently, with items prepared individually wrapped and drinks served in bottles only. Check with airline staff if coffee or tea will be served, in most cases airlines will only be serving single use, sealed drinks.
Queueing for the toilet will not be permitted on board so try to minimise any need for using the toilet facilities once airborne. If possible check with airline staff or your airline website for toilet protocol details.
Arrival at your destination airport – what is waiting for you?
Passengers can expect their arrival airports to be just as clean and sanitised as their departure airports. As with security at departures, passengers can expect to be fast tracked through to baggage collection with any unnecessary queueing removed.
Passengers with passport restrictions or visa requirements for their destination country should check thoroughly beforehand whether there are any extra requirements before departure and/or on arrival.
Travellers may be expected to adhere to social distancing rules at baggage collection, so please follow the rules in place.
Finally, queueing for taxis from the airport may be in a controlled form. Don’t stress yourself out, follow staff guidance and just wait for the taxi to come to you.
Last minute essentials for your hand luggage
- A small packet or bottle of hand sanitiser (up to 100ml)
- Sanitised hand wipes
- An empty plastic bottle to fill at a water fountain at the airport terminal
- Extra masks, individually wrapped if possible