With not even bars and restaurants open, many will wonder why someone would choose to fly during this time. However, with many European countries open and operating almost as normal, escaping the poorly handled UK lockdown is a tempting option for some.
Of course many have to travel for essential reasons and the urge to visit family abroad, is naturally a very strong incentive for many.
Whatever your reason for flying, I'm sure many of you are wondering just what it is like. Complete chaos? Well not yes and no. Read on below to read the full account of my journey taken on the 1st of July.
Airport departed from - Luton Airport Carrier - Wizz air
Bag drop/check in As soon as I enter the airport, I'm surprised at just how many people are here. To give some context, the 1st of July is the first day Easyjet resumes flights and Ryan significantly reintroduces their operations. Right from the off it's clear that people are desperate to make their journeys and have taken their chance on the very first day. The airport entrance is packed. I honestly couldn't even describe the queues. The only word I can use is 'disorganised' But that would still be an understatement of the month. Back to that later.
Off to the bag drop I go. It's immediately unclear as to how the queuing system works and it is just a sea of people all waiting for check in and the bag drop. There are self service drop offs, but this just seems to confuse things further. There are several staff stationed to assist passengers, but it's a slow process. What surprised me most however was the lack of social distancing and masks. Simply put, social distancing is just impossible in Luton Airport. They have stickers on the floor, but nobody seems to be taking much notice of them. As for masks, half the staff weren't wearing any PPE and I would say the same was true for passengers. Of those who were wearing masks, I saw countless people wearing them incorrectly. Either just covering the mouth, or pulled down around the neck. When you see so many individuals crammed into one area with no masks or distancing, it does make you question what the point of all these systems are.
*Sigh* Hopefully this picture will give you an idea of what it was like. Round and round I went, and there was absolutely no indication of where or how to queue. (Bear in mind this is just the line to get into security.) This caused much confusion, pushing in, and general frustration for many.
The only positive was the member of staff who would occasionally call passengers for flights nearing take off. This meant that they could use the fast track lane to ensure they would not miss their flight. When I arrive to the front and scanned my ticket, the drained looking assistant informed us it was her first day back. Clearly they are still adjusting to these new systems, so I won't judge the staff themselves too harshly. They genuinely tried their hardest to help.
Now I have entered the actual security section and for the third time I am in an endless line. The same rules apply however, so any approaching flights allow passengers to fast track. I did not get this opportunity having arrived early. It's at this point I am questioning whether this is all worth the hassle.
Boarding the plane
Once through security, I reach the usually bustling duty free area. Only today it was like a ghost town. Duty free completely closed and boarded up and just WH Smith's open for business. But with all the waiting, I have no time to waste. So it's straight to the gate to board my flight.
Again, it's clear to see that distancing is impossible in an airport and masks are not mandatory while in the airport. I arrive at the gate and it's a short 10 minute wait before I'm in seat. Already I can see that the flight is around 50% full.
On the plane
At this point, Wizz Air insist that you wear a mask. Which on a hot day in July, isn't the most enjoyable experience. However I'm feeling slightly more positive. This is last stretch now and even though I'm struggling to breath through my mask, the two sandwiches I made that morning give me somewhat of a boost. There's no fuss on the plane. The crew get on with their job and it's just like another other flight. I quite enjoyed this 'no nonsense' approach.
Overall it was a mixed experience. The actual flight is the most hassle free part. But the airports desperately need to fine tune the measures they have in place. Not only is it just unclear, it almost feels like it's all a waste of time. It's just so difficult to social distance in Luton airport. Maybe in some of the larger airports the processes would be easier. to implement, but much work is still needed for many airports.
This type of airport experience will likely continue for many months and I dread to think what it will be like when the majority start taking their summer holidays.
My short summary would be: if you need to make the journey and travel by air, it's just about bearable. But if you are making the trip as a tourist, it's just much more trouble than it's worth.