Flying after Coronavirus Lockdown: What You Need to Know Worried about Coronavirus and travel insurance? Find out more

Flying after coronavirus lockdown: What do you need to know?

Posted on November 11, 2020 by Kelly Johnstone
Woman walking through airport wearing face mask

Travel certainly looks a little different to what we’re used to.

Airports and airlines have changed the way they work to help keep us and their staff as safe as possible. It’s important that you’re aware of the changes to air travel before you set off so you’re prepared for your journey.

Where can you travel to?

If you’re looking to travel soon, be sure to check that your travel dates don’t conflict with any UK government travel bans. Travel restrictions vary according to your home nation, so we recommend checking the latest guidance before you take out a policy as information can change quickly.

Government enforced bans are different from FCDO travel advice.

When the skies reopened in July, holidaymakers were relieved to finally be able to visit some of their favourite holiday hotspots without having to quarantine thanks to ‘travel corridors’ between the UK and countries like Spain, France and Italy.

But with cases of COVID-19 on the rise, there are now only a handful of places that British travellers can visit without facing quarantine restrictions – either on arrival at their destination or on their return to the UK.

For the most up to date list of countries on the travel corridor list, please visit the FCDO website.

Follow government guidelines

The place you’re travelling to might be dealing with the coronavirus in a different way to the UK. It’s important to check with your destination’s government guidelines to understand what the restrictions are before you travel.

This might involve things like wearing a face mask when in public places. Some countries have introduced fines if this guidance is not followed.

Health declaration forms

Before you head off to the airport, you may need to complete a health declaration form that you’ll need to hand over either during boarding or on arrival at your destination.

It will be your responsibility to check the latest government policies and entry requirements for your destination before you travel or you might not be permitted entry.

Before arriving back in the UK you will also be required to fill out a Passenger Locator form, detailing where you have visited and where you can be found if you’re required to self isolate. By not completing the form by the time you reach the UK border you could be fined and your entry to the UK may be delayed.

Entering the airport

For the time being, only those that are travelling will be allowed to enter the airport. This is to reduce the number of people in the airport. So if you’re looking to wave somebody off, or pick them up on arrival, you won’t be able to do this for now.

The only exception to this is if you’re helping somebody to reach special assistance. In this case, only one extra person can enter the airport to help.

Going through security

Restrictions on liquids remain the same with the 100ml limit, so it’s still advised to have pre-sorted your items before you go through security.

The trays used for your baggage during security checks will be thoroughly cleaned and clear screens will be used during bag searches to protect passengers and staff.

Some airports, such as Manchester Airport have introduced free pre-booked security slots. Here you’ll enter a dedicated lane to help manage the flow of people through security, as it can cause a bottleneck of people at the best of times.

Special assistance

Special assistance in airports will still be available for those that need it. Wheelchairs will be thoroughly cleaned after each use and those assisting will be wearing protective clothing.

Any help will still need to be pre-booked with the airport.

Temperature checks

Most UK airports are trialling body screening temperature technology to check people’s temperature automatically.

If you have a temperature or symptoms of COVID-19, then you will be refused entry to the airport and won’t be able to fly. Even if you think you only have a cold, you won’t be able to fly if you have a temperature. Airports are advising that you check your temperature before you get to the airport to avoid disappointment.

If you have any symptoms of COVID-19, then government advice is to stay at home and self-isolate.

Face coverings

Anyone aged six or over will need to wear a face covering in the airport and on the aeroplane. You will need to take your own, but airports will have some available if you forget.

Airlines are advising that you change your face mask every four hours, so you’ll need to make sure you have enough for your complete journey.

You will be asked to remove your face mask for security checks but should only do so when asked.

If you can’t wear a face covering for medical reasons, then you should discuss this with your doctor and airline. They will be able to give you specific advice as to your next steps and any paperwork that you might need to take with you.

Airport testing

With a growing number of countries classifying the UK as being ‘at risk’, airport testing may offer a solution to help people travelling to destinations where a negative result is required on arrival.

London Heathrow is now offering passengers flying to Hong Kong the option of paying for a Covid test before they travel. The rapid saliva swab, known as a Lamp (Loop-mediated Isothermal Amplification) test, is different to the PCR test used by the NHS and offers passengers results in just one hour.

The Lamp test is not sufficient for some destinations (Cyprus, the Bahamas, Bermuda) who prefer the laboratory analysed PCR test, but it is hoped that countries will start to accept other tests which give quicker results.

Keeping things clean

Airports will have installed hand sanitiser stations throughout the building to keep your hands clean. You may also wish to take your own hand sanitiser to use during your flight.

It’s advised that you use these hand sanitiser stations often as well as thoroughly washing your hands when you can.

As well as keeping your hands clean, airport staff will be regularly cleaning communal areas using advanced cleaning technology.

Touchless experience

Where possible, you might be asked to use airline apps and contactless payments to minimise contact between people. This includes minimising face-to-face contact between check-in staff and passengers by further promoting the use of online check-in and self-service check-in with bag drop facilities.

If you take a water bottle with you to refill with water, then some airports like London Heathrow have also introduced hands free water stations to replace water fountains.

Social distancing

Where possible you’ll be asked to continue to social distance around the airport. To help, airports should have clear signage and may have introduced one way systems and changed their seating to help people distance while still allowing families to sit together.

Baggage

Carry on luggage restrictions may change depending on your airline and where you’re travelling to.

Airlines such as easyJet have said that you will need to stow your own cabin baggage and close the overhead lockers yourself. If you are travelling with larger luggage where you might struggle to do this, you might be encouraged by your airline to check these into the hold instead.

When it comes to reuniting with your luggage from the hold you’ll be asked again to maintain social distancing and to only remove your own luggage from the conveyor belt.

Air quality and cleanliness on the aircraft

Most aircrafts, including those used by Ryanair, easyJet, Jet2 and BA are fitted with advanced air filtration technology. This technology is also used in hospitals and filters the air for impurities throughout your journey.

Planes will be thoroughly disinfected every day and cleaned between flights. Most airlines have released information on their cleaning processes to help give you peace of mind over the cleanliness of the plane. If you’re concerned, you might feel more comfortable taking some disinfectant wipes with you to clean the area you’re using and the toilet before you use it.

Passports

If your passport is due to expire soon then Martin Lewis advises that you should renew it as soon as possible. This is because renewals may take longer at this time.

Also, with the current open travel rules between EU and the UK due to cease after 31 December 2020, you will need at least six months remaining on your passport to gain entry to an EU destination in 2021.

When presenting your passport to a member of staff, it will need to be open on the correct page ready for airline staff to check.

You’ll also be asked to scan your own boarding pass to minimise contact.

In-flight services

To reduce contact between crew members and passengers you may find that airlines reduce some of their in-flight services.

This may include limiting the food and drink service as well as non-essential services such as duty free. If such services are available, only contactless payment will be taken for these.

The same guidance on taking food with you apply, so you might be able to take your own food with you for the flight.

Toilets on planes

All passengers will be encouraged to remain in their seats where possible. Queuing for the toilet on planes will not be allowed as there isn’t enough space to socially distance.

Instead, you might be asked to call your flight attendant who will let you know when you can leave your seat.

If you have medical problems and need to go to the toilet as a priority then you’ll need to make your flight attendants aware of this.

Will my holiday be covered by travel insurance?

To be covered by your travel insurance, you’ll need to be travelling to a place that the FCDO have not advised against travel to. Your policy will only be valid if it’s safe for you to go.

If travel is essential and you choose to travel against FCDO advice, you can still go on your trip with cover by adding our European FCO Travel Advice Extension to your policy.

For more information, see our latest guidance on how we’re helping people if their holiday is affected by coronavirus or find out more about buying a travel insurance policy that can cover coronavirus for medical emergencies and repatriation.

Kelly Johnstone

by Kelly Johnstone

Kelly Johnstone is Staysure’s Head of Content. She’s known for a love of tea and shares data-driven and breaking travel news.