Travelling In The New Normal – What Flying Is Like Now
Many people are understandably anxious about taking their first steps back into the world of travel, so it was with slight trepidation and a sense of the curious that one of our sales consultants travelled recently from London Heathrow on their first flight for over five months, (which is a lifetime for anybody working in the industry!).
FIRST IMPRESSIONS AT HEATHROW AIRPORT
On entering Heathrow, the immediate impression was that Terminal 5 had only opened that morning, so clean and fresh was the environment. To ensure numbers inside the terminal building were kept to a minimum, the staff at the entrance were only allowing those actually flying to enter the building, with entry only permitted within two hours of your scheduled departure. Masks must be worn through the airport and were given out to those who did not have one.
CHECK-IN DESKS, SECURITY LINES & LOUNGES
The self-service check-in & bag drop facilities were operating as normal and so, for those not requiring any assistance, the level of contact with British Airways staff was zero. As expected, hand sanitizer stations were everywhere, before and after the security channels, (where the queues were shorter and quicker than normal - one of the bonuses for anyone currently happy to travel), and it was into the main departure area. Those wanting to use one of the lounges need to check in advance as the openings vary, (the Galleries North Lounge and the Terminal 5B Lounge were closed on this occasion), but once inside them British Airways have introduced a new online site ‘Your Menu’ which allows you to order food and drink which will be brought directly to you.
The majority of shops and restaurants in the main Terminal were open, but those venturing to Terminal 5B should be aware that only WH Smiths & Boots were open.
BOARDING & IN-FLIGHT EXPERIENCE
To minimise interaction with other passengers, boarding of the aircraft is currently being done by row number, with no priority boarding offered, (except for those with young children). Boarding commenced from the back, rows 30-24 first, then rows 23-20 etc, and progressed very smoothly. On entering the aircraft the cabin crew, all wearing masks, handed everybody a small bag containing hand sanitizer gel and a disinfectant wipe, and although the inflight magazine and newspapers were absent, everything else was as normal.
A couple of announcements were made asking that everybody please keep their masks on for the duration of the flight, with a separate request that anyone needing the lavatory to please only leave their seat if there was no queue in the aisle. A complimentary refreshment box containing a sandwich, salad, dessert and bottle of water was handed out to all passengers (another bonus for those travelling short-haul in economy class, where the M&S chargeable menu normally applies), followed by a choice of hot or soft drink.
After an uneventful flight, an announcement was made that disembarking would again be by row number, starting this time from the front of the aircraft, with everyone asked to remain seated until their row was called, (which was a welcome change from the normal mad scramble to reach the overhead lockers as soon as the tyres hit the tarmac). This process seemed to clear the aircraft quicker than normal and once inside the arrivals hall luggage was quickly retrieved and the holiday could begin.
There may still be a fear of the unknown with regards air travel, but those who have travelled post-lockdown can report that the airports and airlines are working tirelessly and meticulously to create an environment which is as safe and as clean as it possibly can be. Those worried about being stuck in a metal tube with 200 strangers and a lot of stale air need to remember that the cabin air in today’s modern aircraft passes through HEPA filters, which filters and renews it every two to three minutes and removes the smallest particles, bacteria and virus clusters with over 99.9% efficiency - creating an environment on a par with hospital operating theatres.
Of course, having to wear a mask at the airport and on the plane is an inconvenience, but only a small one when the reward at the end is a longed-for and well-earned holiday or break, and once you have flown in the new normal, the skies are your limit.
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