Are you jet set? We flew to Portugal today and this is what you need to know
Tiggy Duchesne & Henry Collins - Geoff Pugh
On board the BA500 flight from Heathrow to Lisbon, there is a distinctly festive atmosphere in the air. For those lucky enough to have bought a ticket for one of the first flights to a 'green list' country, it felt like an escape from Covid, a lockdown and of course the UK weather.
Even the tons of forms to be filled out, pre-flight tests and the early take-off for a 7:30 am departure couldn't shake the joy of flying into the sky for the first time in more than a year.
Aside from the face masks, this felt just like the milestone we've all longed for, a return to normal that had been little more than a pipe dream a few weeks ago.
"I'm so much more excited than I normally would when going abroad," said Tiggy Duchesne, a 21-year-old student who flew to Portugal with her boyfriend Henry Collins, a real estate surveyor.
“It's partly because of everyone else's reactions. People say,“ What? You're actually going on vacation abroad? ”There's a bit of jealousy there.
"We booked it a few months ago because we couldn't come and we can't wait to get there. It's amazing to actually be on a plane."
A very socially distant queue: bag dropping is child's play in Terminal 5 - Geoff Pugh
A word of caution: if you're the type of person who panics all the time and left your passport at home even when you already know it is in your pocket, the list of forms you have now may be with you must have a seizure of collywobbles.
If you want to fly to Portugal you must have the following with you:
A certificate showing that you tested negative within 72 hours of flight.
Proof that you have booked a virtual appointment for a test in Portugal;
A copy of your passenger search form;
Proof that you booked a test on the second day on your return;
An antigen test that you can use three days before your return.
And of course your passport (which must be valid for at least another six months due to Brexit).
Everyone who set out for Portugal today spent around £ 150 per person on Covid tests to travel. PCR tests, which must be done 72 hours before departure and two days after return, cost £ 40 to £ 60 each. In-country tests showing you didn't catch Covid while on vacation cost £ 33.
The British Airways website requires passengers to upload the appropriate forms, which must be verified by their staff before they can check in. This is a headache if you are not tech savvy (I personally wasn't aware of the pressure on the PDF ”function until now), but at least gives you the assurance that everything is in order before you leave home.
When I got to Heathrow Terminal 5, I was armed with a bundle of documents, apps, and QR codes and expected to be interrogated at every turn. In fact, getting through the airport was a breeze - no one wanted to see anything other than my boarding pass and passport, and the relative lack of passengers meant there were no queues at security or anywhere else.
Crossing the airport in Portugal - not to mention returning through Heathrow - may of course be a different matter.
For investment firm partners Claire Madden and Steve Wilson, both 52 years old, of Brackley, Northants, completing the form was a small price to pay for a chance to be at the beach for five days.
Ms. Madden said, "We look forward to relaxing in the sunshine, fresh air, and seafood, and leaving Covid behind us a little."
"I mainly worked from home, so I want to leave. The fact that the weather has been so bad over the past few days only helps."
Claire Madden and Steve Wilson - Geoff Pugh
A quiet departure lounge for the lucky few who jump off - Geoff Pugh
The recruiter Sophia Taylor, 31, from Epping, who flew to the Algarve with her fiancé Shaun (31) and two-year-old son Jude, said: “It's almost like going abroad for the first time.
"It's the first time we've gone since September 2019, and I was surprised how easy it was to get flights and hotels. We didn't book it until the government released the green list a few days ago.
“I thought it would be a mess when we got to Heathrow, but it was fine. I'm a bit worried about Covid, especially with the Indian variant, so the excitement has subsided a bit. "
Lots of legroom: Flight BA500 from London to Lisbon blows up - Geoff Pugh
An army of 100 hygiene technicians working at the two Heathrow terminals currently open ensure that the surfaces that are most touched - such as B. Lift buttons - disinfected every 20 minutes. Clean toilets at night.
Airplanes are thoroughly cleaned between flights, and even the touchscreens at the self-check-in counters have an antiviral coating that lasts for days.
If you are concerned that planes could have rusty brakes or birds on their engines after such a long period of operation, your fears are unfounded as almost all planes were in regular use during the pandemic.
The entire British Airways fleet, with the exception of the A380, was used alternately for passenger or cargo flights and moved between “dry storage” destinations such as southern Spain or Palma on Mallorca.
Even those not flown on active duty were kept at a higher level than required, according to BA pilot Capt Al Bridger.
He told the telegraph, “The plane and the pilots were rotated as we never stopped flying. We initially flew 12,000 tons of PPE.
“Pilots have to be at the controls every 35 days or less and be assessed in a simulator every six months.
“We didn't have any problems with the plane as the engineers did an excellent job. The pilots are ready and the plane is ready. "
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