Travelling from Heathrow Terminal 2, UK to Hamburg, Germany recently was an eye-opening experience especially during the current Covid-19 Pandemic .
Here are my five top tips to fly safely in 2020
1. Wear a face mask at all times – only remove it when asked to by staff or when you need to eat and drink. Avoid removal especially on the plane or in a taxi.
2. Use hand sanitiser or wash your hands whenever possible – this limits the spread of germs including Covid 19. By dabbing hand sanitiser on tissue or using disinfectant wipes you can also clean surfaces.
3. Socially distance yourself from others – remember a face mask is not an impenetrable barrier and there will be people who do not wear a face mask or face cover appropriately.
4. Arrive early to avoid queues – plan to arrive 3 to 4 hours before your flight. There will be ample time to go through security and lounge in the waiting area before boarding. Avoiding crowds will help reduce the spread and likelihood of catching Covid 19.
5. Take action by notifying staff or politely telling the person themselves if you feel uncomfortable someone near you is not wearing their face covering properly.
An account of our experience:
We popped in our flight details on the Heathrow website and it gave us a suggested arrival time to the airport of 3 hours before the flight departs.
Naturally we left home early (mainly due to anxiety from the media). At the drop-off point there are trolleys for your bags with a special handle coating that reads ‘nanoseptic continuously self cleaning surface’; but we still used hand sanitiser just in case!
At the bridge before entering, a security guard asked what time our flight was and let us pass through. From a quick media search, it seems there have been some queues last weekend caused by people arriving far too early and causing a backlog. So beware of arriving more than 5hrs before your flight as they may advise you not to enter. There was a sanitising station equipped with free blue face masks, wipes to clean your trolley, hand sanitiser spray and also bins once you passed this checkpoint. At this point we had not seen any queues or anything which had slowed us down, stress-free!
A giant board displayed the following: You must wear a face covering in the terminal, wash your hands regularly, keep a safe distance from others.
There was also another sign which read: Passengers only. No friends and family should enter the terminal. There are some exceptions to this and you should check the Heathrow website (or for whichever airport you are using) to check before you go.
Just in case you didn’t stop on the bridge there are tables when you enter with more free face masks and free wipes to clean your trolley.
There were a couple of stands with a temperature check trial sign but our temperatures were not checked upon entry.
By this point we were very pleased with how thorough the approach was. There was no avoiding the sanitation or the access to the masks. Everyone was aware and no one could feign ignorance or just waltz through.
Next up we had to ‘self check-in’ on a computer terminal. This involved the usual entering of our flight details on the screen. Then it printed our bag tags and our boarding passes. We didn’t stick the tags on our bags ourselves – the lady at the bag drop desk did that for us, we were a bit worried about doing it wrong and it didn’t seem worth the stress and accidentally sticking it awkwardly. There were no queues to drop off our bags and the check-in process was a breeze. This is most likely due to coming so early and we would recommend this for everyone!
On our way to security there was a vending machine dedicated to all travel-size things for maintaining good hygiene. Of course they would cost you a pretty penny at the airport so don’t forget your own from home!
There is the usual signage to empty your water bottles before you go through security but you can refill from free fountains on the other side so there was no need to worry about keeping well hydrated.
Next there was security which gave you space to sort out the standard one plastic bag each with your carry on limit of 100ml per travel size product. But now there is a free to use hand sanitiser dispenser!
There are signs on all seating areas which say ‘do not use this seat’ but they are not attached to the chairs, just hooked over the edge. That meant people could move them around and this did happen on occasion especially after security as people started to pile in and large families wanted to sit next to each other.
During security we were asked to take our shoes and belts off, something to bear in mind as my husband made the smart choice to wear jogging bottoms and avoid having to remove a belt. We walked through the metal detector as standard too. Nothing new here.
After passing through security we got to duty free. There was only one restaurant fully open – the London Pride pub. You could also get takeaway from Yo Sushi and there was The Caviar House & Prunier Seafood bar also open. This really limits food options in the airport and meant that the pub almost always had a small queue. Boots had a selection of sandwiches, drinks and snacks included in a £4.49 meal deal which should cover most needs. There was also a selection of expensive confectionery as you’d expect in other shops like WHSmith. Bring your own selection of snacks if you can as healthy food options are scarce and prices are very high. It may also help you to avoid further interactions with people.
We queued to enter London’s Pride Pub and were told to sanitise our hands upon entry and being seated. The staff wore face masks properly. People were seated back to back. They operated a one way entry in and entry out of the restaurant.
There were also nanoseptic Self-cleaning buttons to call the lift!
There is also an app to pre-order food the contactless way.
We did take off our masks to eat and drink. Then we put them back on to sit in the waiting area.
The waiting area is a curious place to say the least. Children generally don’t have masks on. Most people are wearing their masks correctly but there are those folks who pull the mask under their nose so their nose isn’t covered. There are also people who have their mask hooked over their ears but tucked completely under their chin not covering their mouth or nose at all! Retail workers generally wore face masks and gloves but the jewellery and high fashion shops seemed not to (avoid!). But, they all had queuing systems and limited customer entry. There was a team of cleaners constantly working around the seats with a sanitising spray to clean the seating areas etc. This was great to see and meant that even if you forget to wipe something down, you can be confident it would have been sprayed in the last 30mins at least.
Unfortunately for us, our flight was delayed by a whole hour due to a small aircraft crash at our destination, Hamburg airport. Nothing major but it led to an additional hour on the plane sitting on the runway sigh…
We had to remove our face masks to show our faces when our boarding passes were scanned. On the Eurowings plane we were given one free disinfectant wipe each. It was just big enough to wipe the arm rests, the tray table and probably the buckle.
In case you were wondering for short-haul flights; you can eat and drink on the flight. The flight attendants come down the aisle with a snack trolley as usual.
However, people are not seated apart. The flight was full with a few empty seats. Unlike the seating area in the airport there were no seats labelled ‘do not use’. It seems that for these flights, there is no social-distancing employed in the seating etc. This was very disappointing as a small enclosed space is one of the areas where you are most vulnerable. But the airlines are there to make money so it is important for us to take additional precautions where we can to look after ourselves and the people around us.
We kept our face masks on the whole time. It was unpleasant but as said before, we would consider the plane journey with recycled air (and no social distancing) the highest risk area to remove one’s mask.
Upon arrival in Hamburg, Germany we were greeted with a sign outlining all of their local measures to limit the spread of Covid 19. This included wearing a face mask that covered your mouth and nose in airports, on public transport and in shops. We had to keep a distance of 1.5m away from other people and wash our hands for 20 seconds where possible or disinfect regularly (with hand sanitiser).
There were plenty of hand sanitiser stations and toilets to wash our hands.
After passport checks, where we had to remove our masks for the cameras to photo us, we got to the taxi bay outside. Yes we had to keep our face masks on the whole time and so did the taxi driver.
It was an important journey for us to get to Hamburg but when planning it, we were disappointed by the lack of literature available to know what to expect. We really hope that our experience helps you to prepare and have more confidence with any flights that you may be taking in the near future.
Feel free to contact me with any questions you may have in order to better prepare and feel ready! Covid-19 wont stop the world moving but we can protect ourselves and our communities by sharing our experiences and staying informed!
Best of luck and happy, safe travelling!