James O'Brien 10am - 1pm
Flying Ryanair coming out of covid-19 lockdown: What it is really like?
1 July 2020, 14:41
Airlines stripped back services three months ago due to the coronavirus pandemic and lockdown, and today was one of the first days they started running fuller schedules, so I took my first flight in months to find out what the experience is like.
There are quite a few changes to an air journey now, as both airlines and airports put safety measures in place to protect passengers and staff against Covid-19.
It's fair to say my short Ryanair flight from London Stansted to Dublin this morning (and back again this afternoon) threw up surprises right from the start of the whole process of flying.
Even before packing by travel bag, I had received emails from both London Stansted and Ryanair explaining new rules about masks and check in, what I might experience going on a flight and through the airport, and offering advice on how to stay safe, including downloading the airline app to have my boarding pass on my phone rather than paper.
I was nervous before flying and I think many of my fellow passengers were apprehensive too.
The most noticeable change is of course the mask. Wearing one is now compulsory onboard flights and through airport terminal buildings. Everyone was wearing one this morning on my flight. Some people are really conscientious about it while others are wearing theirs over their chin - but nevertheless everyone had one on.
I was warned that I might have to have my temperature checked but after my outward leg, that hasn’t happened yet. It might happen on the way back into Stansted airport later though.
At the airport, other changes include screens between staff and passengers when boarding and checking in, a lot more hand sanitising stations around the airport and tannoy announcements reminding us all to maintain a safe distance between each other and to keep our masks on
The airport was quite busy. In fact, it was busier than I had expected, with extra flights only really starting from today. Security was the usual routine, but with social distancing when queueing.
I was really shocked once I was through security at Stansted though, to see the departure lounge.
All the shops, apart from three, were shut. Everyone who was waiting for their gate to come up was sitting there in an eerie silence with nothing really to do.
Usually, on any other July morning, the departure lounge would be a hive of activity with people looking around for that last minute treat or purchase and some would say that’s all part of the airport experience. But today, that was noticeably absent. I don’t think it’ll ruin people’s holidays but it was a strange sight.
Once on board, we were advised to take our seats and stay seated throughout the flight. If we wanted to use the loo, we were asked to press the button overhead to let the crew know so that they could control who was in the aisles and to stop any queuing for the loos.
We were also told food and drink orders could be made through the Ryanair app as there are currently no in flight magazines on board.
Arriving in Dublin, as we landed, we were asked to stay seated, not gather in the aisles and told we would disembark row by row to maintain social distancing.
Of course everyone jumped up as usual once the plane came to a stop but the crew were really quick to reiterate the rule again and remind us all we must be patient, wait in our seats for our row to be the next to empty and to keep our masks on until we leave the terminal building.
Passport control at Dublin was normal, although we did have to fill in a form with our personal information on it and also an address of where we would be isolating for the next 14 days. Because I am only staying for a few hours I only had to fill out one section. It wasn’t a complicated form though and it explained why we had to fill it out.
At Dublin airport itself, not much is open here either. All the rental car places are shut and there’s only two cafes open before departures, with limited seating available, to maintain social distancing.
All in all, I was a bit nervous before flying out, but everyone seems to be following the rules in place which definitely put my mind at rest.
We’re always nervous of the new and unknown so I hope this helps anyone who has to fly soon and might be worried.