In July 2020 we flew from Dubai to London on a one way flight home. It wasn’t a flight I’d thought I’d be taking so soon and with COVID-19 still very much around, it was a flight I was particularly anxious about. For anyone else having to flying during this global pandemic, for need or pleasure, I thought I’d share my experience flying during COVID-19 with Emirates to help you out a little.
I think the part of this whole trip that felt the safest was Dubai Terminal 3 airport. Like the rest of Dubai it was compulsory to wear a mask at all times for staff and visitors which certainly helped me to feel at ease. Once we arrived with our luggage I wiped the trolley down before touching it and unlike normal there weren’t lots of people offering to handle your bags.
Inside the airport we had to go through a thermal imaging gate to ensure our temperature wasn’t high. Even the departure terminal seemed empty compared to normal at that time of year, this was something that continued throughout the entire trip. For our flight we were directed to a specific check in location which for anyone who has flown from the Dubai Emirates terminal will know is not common practice. This meant while queueing to check in our luggage we were only stood with people who would be on our flight. While queueing there was ample space to keep 2m apart from everyone. We were also given a hygiene kit each at this point which contained masks, gloves, hand sanitizer and wipes.
At the check in desk there was a perspex screen to protect the staff completing check in, they were also wearing masks and gloves during our check in process. We had to show the check in staff confirmation of our completed Government form which is compulsory to fill in before arrival in the UK. The immigration desk also had the same perspex screens to protect staff.
There were plenty of hands free sanitizer machines all around the departures area of the airport. Most staff members also had protective aprons on top of their clothing.
Security was the main part of our airport experience that felt the same, apart from queueing 2m apart much of this process was the same as you’d normally expect. However, the whole security process was sped up because airlines are currently only accepting a handbag or laptop bag as hand luggage. All other luggage that would normally be hand luggage had to be checked, this did mean our luggage allowance was increased by 7kg.
After security we headed to the main concourse as we had several hours before our flight. We’d been sure to arrive more than 3 hours before the flight as was recommended. We decided to head into one of the duty free stores as I was after a little gift. To do this, we had to sanitize our hands on arrival and take a sanitized trolley around the store with us. We were also asked to not touch something unless we were going to buy it. This process was true for each store within the airport.
There were many restaurants and stores that were still closed at the moment but there was enough open to get food and continue to maintain social distancing. Again, there were plenty of hands free sanitizer machines all around the concourse of the airport.
Our flight began boarding around an hour before take off and this was the one part where I felt it was hard to social distance. There were plenty of people sat in the seats for our gate while we were trying to queue through the middle. I also found that people would cut in the line every time I left a 2m gap in front of me.
Everyone was called to board the plane row by row, starting with the back rows. This was not very successful though as many people were late to the gate and were coming on to seats behind us long after we had boarded.
On the plane all staff were wearing masks, face shields and PPE cover. They were very attentive to the safety of passengers and were quick to ask those not wearing masks correctly to adjust them. The middle seat on rows of 3 was left empty and then the 4 seats in the middle of the plane had a gap left between groups. This meant there was always at least 1 seat between you and a stranger. However, the rows in front and behind you were occupied.
Much of the flight felt the same as normal, they did however encourage you to stay in your seat for the whole flight unless you needed to use the bathroom. Meals were served as normal and this was the only time people were able to remove their masks. If you wanted to change your mask or gloves (which weren’t compulsory to wear) then you were asked to use the waste bag in the seat pocket. All items provided on the flight like pillow, blanket, etc. were wrapped in plastic packaging. Unfortunately, when we landed in Heathrow and were able to remove our seatbelts, everyone was up out of their seats and standing very close in the aisles ready to leave the plane.
I actually think Heathrow was even quieter than Dubai airport and even less seemed to be open. We headed straight for immigration and were encouraged to use the electronic gates so that we didn’t have to come in contact with more people than necessary. For these to work once inside the gate you had to remove your mask to have your face scanned. Queueing was done 2m apart and there were staff to ensure this was being enforced. This was the only area what I saw cameras for checking temperatures, however, I’m not sure these were in use.
The final part of our COVID-19 airport experience was collecting our baggage. There were sanitizing wipes provided to clean down trolleys before use but it was more difficult to social distance during this time. Thankfully everyone was still wearing masks which did help to keep us feeling fairly safe.
During the whole process, but especially once we landed in Heathrow we were continually sanitizing our hands. Wearing a mask helped us to not touch our faces throughout the whole journey. We also had two masks on throughout the whole journey to ensure that no moisture could come through and we were fully protected.
As we arrived before the 10th of July we then had to quarantine for 14 days at the address given on our Government arrivals form. For some countries this part has now been lifted but those arriving from Dubai would still need to do this.
It is recommended that you do not take public transport from the airport at the moment. As this is the case it is okay for those collecting you to come into the airport and use the facilities. This is something we were unsure about beforehand as we’d heard only those with flight tickets could enter the airport.
I have to admit I definitely felt safer at DXB airport rather than LHR. In the UAE it is compulsory for everyone to wear masks when outside of their home and I think this was a big part of feeling safer there. I also felt there were not enough checks at Heathrow for arriving passengers. At no point did I have my temperature taken or was asked where I’d travelled from.
Emirates did a fantastic job to look after all of the passengers and maintain safety onboard the flight. However, at no point did it seem the staff compromised on customer service to do this and they were extremely professional throughout.
Although I’m not sure I will be jumping on the next flight for a holiday any time soon I do believe if you need to travel airlines are doing a fantastic job at keeping their passengers safe.