Flying After Lockdown – What’s Changed?

Now that I’ve completed my latest trip report series, I thought I’d take a closer look at what’s changed since before lockdown.

If you’ve missed any part of the series, you can catch up here:

 British Airways Club Europe, Airbus A321NEO, LHR-MAD
 Iberia Express Business Class, A321 MAD-PMI
 Melia Palma Marina
 Palma: City Guide
 Iberia Express Business Class, Airbus A321, PMI-MAD
 British Airways Airbus A321NEO, Club Europe, MAD-LHR

Arrival At Heathrow

The first difference since before lockdown was before I had even arrived at Heathrow. At terminal 5 at least, none of the long stay car parks were open. This meant a rather pricey weekend in the short stay. However, since taking the trip and writing this piece, the long stay at Heathrow has reopened. Now all thats needed is to get the pods up and running again…

Upon heading into the terminal, there wasn’t too much difference to pre-lockdown. There were a couple of signs up reminding people to social distance and to wear a face mask, but other than that, it was business as usual for the most part. Even the scenes of a completely abandoned terminal that I’d seen on social media didn’t materialise.

There were also signs advising that a temperature check trial was taking place.

Security

Admittedly, my security experience would have been a little different to most. As I was able to use the private(ish) British Airways First Wing security, I can’t comment on how things are at the regular lines.

What is likely to be similar though is the markers on the floor reminding you to keep your distance, and the perspex screens at the unpacking area. Although interestingly, I don’t recall any screens at the re-packing area.

The biggest difference between now and pre lockdown is that now everyone has to take their shoes off. And walk across the same floor everyone else has walked across without their shoes on. Nice.

In The Lounge

The first of the major differences at the airport came in the lounge. Now I know, this may not apply to everyone. But for those it does apply to:

As in most places these days, there is hand sanitiser readily available.

The way you go about getting your food and drink is the biggest difference. In the British Airways lounges at Heathrow, you order via a dedicated website, input your table number and everything is brought to you.

In the third party lounge I used in Palma, once more the self serve buffet was gone. The procedure for getting food was a little different there, but still a similar concept. Everything was on display behind a perspex screen. You told the staff what you wanted, and they delivered it to your table/seat.

Boarding

Pre-lockdown, most airlines had different ways of boarding a plane. In general though, Business Class went first, along with frequent flyers. If you were sat at the back, you generally went last.

These days, at least with British Airways and Iberia have identical concepts. From what I’ve seen around the interwebs, it’s much the same for most airlines. If you’re at the back, you go first. If you’re at the front, you’ll be waiting around a good half an hour.

At least thats the theory. Whilst on three of the four flights, it generally worked well, on one of them I waited until I was called, only to find everyone else was comfortably seated. Meaning despite being sat in row 1, my bag ended up near to row 9. Which rendered the whole process not only pointless, but actually worse, as I had to walk past everyone already seated 3 times.

Onboard

Upon boarding, at the very least you’re handed a sachet of hand sanitiser. On board British Airways, there was a pack which also contained an antibacterial wipe. Again, this is now something that most other airlines also do.

Service wise, it really depends on the airline, and even which class you’re travelling in. For example, British Airways Euro Traveller passengers end up gaining from the situation. Gone is the buy on board and in comes a pack of food and a basic selection of drinks. Where as if you’re further forward, you lose out. Pre-lockdown, a flight between London and Madrid would be served a cooked breakfast. These days, you get a lunch box. Don’t get me wrong, it was very tasty, but it was still far from the full service. Longer flights get a similar pack.

On Iberia, you definitely lose out. There is absolutely nothing in economy. Not even to purchase. Up front, the situation is just as dire. You get a drink, but thats it. In fact, you actually get more when flying British Airways economy than you do when flying Iberia Business. And don’t expect to grab a meal in the Iberia lounge at Madrid either. That is also closed.

What About Other Airlines?

When flying the Lufthansa group (Lufthansa, Swiss, Austrian etc.) however, business class receives more or less the full service. I believe the same is true on Finnair.

So as mentioned, there is no real standard when it comes to onboard service. It really does depend by airline. And in the base of British Airways and Iberia, even two airlines that are owned by the same company vary massively.

Arrival

Upon arrival at your destination, again, there are changes.

In theory.

In theory, disembarking is done by seat row from the front to the back. The official announcement said that you should only stand up and gather your belongings once the row in front of you has left the aircraft. My own personal opinion is that this is how it should be done anyway, rather than the mass stampede as soon as the flight deck has given the “doors to manual, cross check” call.

Once you’re into the airport terminal, for most counties, you have to fill out a basic health declaration. This confirms that you’re generally healthy and should anything go wrong, where you can be found and how you can be contacted. Again, there are variations on this depending on which country you’re travelling to/from.

Arrival in Mallorca after lockdown

Why in theory though? Because this is how it is supposed to be done. The reality, in my experience was somewhat different. On the disembarking side, there was always going to be that one person in row 14 who felt that they would get a jump on everyone else upon arrival. In general, most people adhered to the announcements however. But only most. Not all.

Then there was the more official tracing procedures. Upon arrival in Spain, I cleared passport control as usual, without anyone checking that I had filled out the relevant information online. After this, I could have quite easily proceeded to my next gate. However, I decided to play safe and head down to baggage claim to have my documents checked. This involved re-clearing security, but I had a long layover so it wasn’t an issue. As I mentioned though, this seemed to be a completely optional process.

Upon arrival back to the UK, it was even more laid back. I have already written about that procedure separately though, so I wont repeat myself.

At The Hotel

How are hotels different post lockdown?

For starters, many are providing incentives in the way of hotel credit to entice people back to their properties.

But other measures include having your temperature taken at check in. And having a perspex barrier on the check in desk itself separating you from the check in agent. Plus there is the almost standard procedure of having to wear a mask in all public areas.

Upon reaching my room, there was a sticker across the door confirming that it had been thoroughly cleaned.

Hotel cleaning after lockdown

In the room itself, a lot of the unnecessary items have been removed. Gone are the destination magazines that you never look at. Gone too are the tea/coffee facilities. Although one area that remains is the minibar. Although in a very much watered down version compared to pre-lockdown times. So watered down in fact, that I didn’t realise that it was a mini bar. I found out the hard way when checking out that the water I consumed during my stay had to be paid for…

In public areas, such as the pool, the hotel has made efforts to enforce social distancing. A number of sun loungers are definitely more than a metre apart. When I paid a visit to the bar area, again, the table I sat at was definitely a lot further from the other tables than what I’d usually experience. Which isn’t a bad thing. I’m not a fan of eating/drinking virtually on top of complete strangers.

Hotel Swimming pool after lockdown

At The Destination

Again, this is obviously something that will vary widely by destination.

In Mallorca however, things were very different to the UK. First off, masks were most definitely mandatory pretty much everywhere. And they made sure that they were being worn properly too. Yes, I know masks are supposedly mandatory in most places in the UK too now. But I’ve seen more than a few people around not wearing them properly, or even at all. Nobody enforces it.

In addition, most, if not all shops have a table set outside to sanitise your hands. Disposable gloves are also provided. This is something that is slowly coming to the UK, but it’s not as widespread as abroad.

When it comes to eating out, not too much has changed since before lockdown. Other than you’re sat further away from others, as mentioned above.

Eating out isnt too much difference after lockdown

Quarantine

Ahhh quarantine. Something I thought that I wouldn’t have to worry about when I set off. Although that suddenly changed once I had arrived.

I must admit that I’ve read the recent stories of the rush to beat the 4am deadline with some amusement. Typical sensationalism from the press. It’s made out like as soon as the clock hits 4am, a huge glass dome will come down over the country in question and everyone will be stranded forever more. Much like in the TV series, Under The Dome.

No. Not at all.

When it became apparent that Spain would be added to the quarantine list, I was bombarded with some pretty smug messages saying that I needed to “get moving NOW” and “Well, you’re screwed as you won’t make it out by midnight”. People seemed convinced that I would somehow be stranded in Spain for the foreseeable future at a huge cost to myself. Again, no.

The reality is that my first thought was that my boss wouldn’t be too pleased (he wasn’t), but other than that, it wouldn’t be a huge deal. And it wasn’t.

I carried on the rest of my trip as I had planned. My flights still operated as planned. In fact, British Airways are still operating flights to/from Madrid. The only thing that could have made the quarantine situation a bit of a pain, was if that huge dome mentioned above did indeed cover the entire island of Mallorca. Or my flight back to London was cancelled. Although that would have been down to the airline to figure out if they had cancelled. Staying home for 2 weeks? No big deal – I’d already stayed home for 4 weeks during the lockdown earlier in the year.

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