Somewhere between all the confusion around air-bridges, travel-corridors and self-isolation, I managed to get a few trips out of the UK recently. It was not normal, or even new normal. Kind of not even close. And one of the biggest changes was the flying – each airline seemed to do things differently, and sometimes the baffling mixed messages would have changed by the time doors armed for take-off.
Here’s what flying post-lockdown is really like.
Ryanair had very little change from normal. Admittedly I haven’t flown with them since circa 2007 when they lost my bags and took off 24hrs late, but both in the run-up to, and actually on the flight seemed…… normal. We had a full drinks and snacks service, and lots of parades of crew through the aisles selling stuff we didn’t need. The only real change was that there were no physical menus – you have to pre-download their app instead. Although that could be standard practice for Ryanair by now. Staff were in masks, as were we – absolutely not enforced though. Usual cluster to get on and off the plane. Basically chaos.
My first post-lockdown flight was the dream. I had a full row to myself, and although the only food on-board was pre-wrapped, the staff came round with water and presented us an antibacterial wipe on boarding. The way home was a full flight though, and confusingly we were told not to turn on our individual air systems (I asked a passing steward why not but no-one seemed to know). We were requested to disembark in row order but it wasn’t enforced. Masks everywhere. We had to fill in a form prior to landing in Austria – not sure if this is a country policy or an airline one.
Easily the most covid-secure airline of the three. A few days before I was sent an email laying out the changes in protocol, with a suggested packing list for the flight (mask, sanitizer etc). On boarding we were each given a sealed personal hygiene pack (wipe and sachet of sanitizer gel), and the refreshment service was a sealed pack of snacks and a water bottle. When we landed, the cabin manager called us forward row by row, and insisted everyone remain in their seats until their turn.
Pre-Covid, flights had begun to feel as though there was little distinction between the airlines. Yes, booking BA felt more reassuring than the screamingly budget Easyjet / Ryanair et al, but with the drive to lower prices and consequent removal of all the little luxuries (do you remember when they gave you socks and an eyemask on your seat?), the lines got blurred. Now, though, the difference in standard of airline is clear and I’ll be flying BA for the foreseeable (or not, if we go back into lockdown….).
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