Coronavirus: Wizz Air resumes flights from Luton Airport despite lockdown

1 May 2020, 19:36

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Budget airline Wizz Air has resumed flights to and from Luton Airport despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

The firm has introduced new hygiene measures since recommencing services at the Bedfordshire airport, with passengers required to wear face masks to stop the spread of coronavirus.

Flights operated to Budapest, Lisbon and Sofia on Friday, with other routes such as Tenerife and Tel Aviv set to reopen in the coming weeks, pending travel restrictions.

Lockdown measures in the UK have prevented Brits from travelling to Luton Airport in order to go on holiday.

Wizz Air flights have resumed at Luton Airport
Wizz Air flights have resumed at Luton Airport. Picture: PA

However, travelling for other reasons, such as returning home after being stranded overseas or for work, is acceptable in the current climate.

Flight crew were also made to wear face masks and ensure that both they and passengers maintained distance between one another during boarding.

Read more: Temperature scanners, masks and deep-cleaning - Heathrow boss on future of air travel

An enhanced cleaning regime has also been introduced between flights.

Customers have been urged to use online services - such as when checking in or paying for additional bags - where possible to ensure minimal physical contact at the airport.

Contactless payment methods have also been encouraged for when purchasing goods on flights.

Wizz Air announced its plan to resume flights last Saturday, saying "enhanced" and "protective" health and safety measures would be in place.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has previously indicated that officials are considering possible checks at air and sea ports, with passengers arriving in the UK required to quarantine for 14 days.

Elsewhere, the boss of Heathrow has warned social distancing at airports is "physically impossible" as he explained the steps they will have to take to ensure safe air travel after the coronavirus outbreak.

Chief executive John Holland-Kaye said a "better solution" is needed to make air travel safe as he called for the UK to lead the way in developing a common international standard of measures which could include temperature checks for all passengers.

He told Sky News they were looking at a "package of measures" to allow people to safely fly again.

"If you've flown through China or another Asian country they have these measures in place themselves anyway because they learned their lesson with SARS," he said.

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"We will see some kind of health screening as you go into the terminal, maybe a thermal scanner, we will see passengers wearing surgical masks, we will see very good hygiene standards through the airport and that will make sure anyone coming into the airport having the infection is very low, and the risk of transmission is also very low.

"I don’t think we’ll see social distancing in that phase within the airport, the reason for that is that it’s impossible to social distance in any form of public transport.”

In an interview with PA, he continued: "Social distancing does not work in any form of public transport, let alone aviation.

"The constraint is not about how many people you can fit on a plane, it will be how many people you can get through an airport safely.

"If you've ever been on holiday from Gatwick, you cannot imagine going through there and socially distancing in the summer.

"It's just physically impossible to socially distance with any volume of passengers in an airport.

"Social distancing on planes would reduce capacities by more than 50% and mean "prices would shoot up", Mr Holland-Kaye predicted.

EasyJet has suggested it could leave the middle seats on its planes empty when flights resume, Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary has said it would be "impossible" to do this.

Mr Holland-Kaye set out several alternative "practical" steps which could be implemented to give passengers "confidence that they are safe to fly".

He said: "I think that'll be a package of measures including some form of screening. That might be temperature screening, as you see in Asian airports.

"It will include probably people having less contact with each other, so probably wearing masks when they travel. Less contact between passengers and airport workers.

"It will include fantastic hygiene in the airport, with sanitisers and deep cleaning and things like that.

"I think that package of measures - once we have got the disease under control - will be enough to get people flying again."

Ryanair chief Michael O'Leary declared "We can keep people safe" as he gave his support to temperature checks.

"What we will have to do, though, when we do return, will be temperature checks at people entering airport terminals and train stations," he told the BBC.

"Anybody with a temperature of over 38 degrees will be refused entry.

"And, on board, we will have face coverings or face masks for passengers, for cabin crew.

"We are disinfecting every aircraft every night.

"So, yes, I think we can keep people safe."