After weeks of deliberating about whether it’s the right time to travel or not, we finally bit the bullet and booked a short trip from London to Amsterdam. We were curious about what it was like to travel through Heathrow Airport post the coronavirus lockdown.
We’ve read reports that Heathrow Airport was busy and that queues were common. Our experience was quite different though. We found the airport to be quiet.
We travelled in the afternoon, and the airport was very quiet as most flights arrived and departed in the morning. With so much space at the airport, it was easy to keep our distance. However, it was a surreal experience, with regular reminders that we’re still amid a global pandemic. Heathrow has implemented a wide range of changes to respond, making sure we all remember to keep our distance.
If you’re in the departure area at Heathrow Airport during coronavirus, you’ll notice that there are signs everywhere reminding you to wear face coverings, wash your hands regularly, and to keep your distance. Although the reminders were constant, we didn’t see anyone enforcing them. Most people abide by the rules, which was good to see. We’ve seen reports of people in the US getting into fights over face coverings and kinda half expected to see a few arguments, but we didn’t.
Hand sanitisers were also readily available and in ample supply.
Only Terminals 2 And 5 Are Open
With most flights still suspended, only Terminals 2 and 5 are open to passengers. Most airlines are flying out from Terminal 2, and all British Airways flights flying from Terminal 5. oneworld airline partners like Qatar Airways and JAL will now be flying from Terminal 5. We suspect that more oneworld carriers will follow suit. After all, the First and Business Class lounge experience at Heathrow terminal 5 amid the coronavirus pandemic is pretty decent. Do check with your airline and the Heathrow Airport website for latest information before you travel, as changes can happen quickly.
Temperature Checks Being Trialled
Heathrow Airport is trialling new temperature screening systems to help detect elevated body temperatures. We’re not sure if this is just a gimmick and what the consequences are if they detect someone with elevated temperatures – will they stop you from flying? Temperature screening is commonplace in most Asian airports, so it will be really interesting to see the results of the trial. We noticed the temperature checks at a few points around the airport and weren’t as regular as the constant signs or hand sanitisers.
Face Covering Or Masks Required
Face coverings and masks are required throughout Heathrow Airport during the coronavirus pandemic. Everyone that we saw was wearing a mask and keeping to the rules. Most, if not all, airlines require you to wear a face mask to fly. We were allowed to remove it when we ate or drank. In the lounges, most of the passengers had their masks removed when seated. Be sure to check the rules, as most European countries are mandating face masks in airports and public transport. Failing to do so, may result in a fine.
To minimise the number of people at the departure area, there were signs up noting that only passengers should be in the departure hall. From what we could see, this wasn’t enforced at the airport.
Keep Your Distance
The signs reminding us to keep our distance were everywhere. Although, these signs were regular, at the moment, we don’t think there are enough passengers to worry about not being able to keep more than 2 metres apart.
Locator Form Before Arrival
We only learnt that we had to complete an online locator form on the flight back to Heathrow Airport. The online locator form is the UK’s attempt at tracking and tracing people arriving into the country. So, if someone on your flight tests positive for coronavirus, they can track you down to tell you to self-isolate for 14 days. You access the online locator by remembering this ridiculously long web address https://www.gov.uk/provide-journey-contact-details-before-travel-uk
Failing to complete the form may result in £100 fine. We’re uncertain how this is enforced, as no one checked whether we had completed the form when we arrived.
Self-Isolate For 14 Days
If you’re not on the UK’s government “safe” list of countries, then you’re expected to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival. Failing to do so will result in a £1,000 fine. It’s not clear how this is being enforced… seemingly this is down to people’s own motivation to respect the rules.
Quiet Baggage Reclaim
When we arrived into the baggage reclaim area, we were struck by how quiet it was. Only a handful of flights were arriving, which made it like a ghost town. We expect this to pick up again, as more airlines arrive into Terminal 5.
Cleaning Stations For Trolley Handles
Like in supermarkets, the arrival halls had “cleaning stations” for you to disinfect the trolley handles. We suspect routine cleaning of the trolleys wasn’t part of the changes implemented by Heathrow, so you’ll have to do it yourselves.
Vending Machines Selling Hygiene Kit
Perhaps one of the strangest and quite a surreal thing for us were vending machines filled with hygiene kits. No longer do they stock treats and fizzy drinks! In a post coronavirus lockdown world, we have seen vending machines selling hygiene kits pop up everywhere. They were also all over Schiphol airport in Amsterdam.
Heathrow Airport During Coronavirus – A Strange And Quiet Place
It was a different and strange experience travelling through Heathrow Airport post the lockdown. It felt like the airport was still undergoing construction or that it was closing down. The usual hustle and bustle of a busy airport was lost, which was probably a good thing, as the low passenger numbers made for a pleasant, quiet and chilled experience. Heathrow Airport can be quite hectic during peak hours pre-coronavirus.
However, the quiet airport is also a signal for the ailing aviation industry. A sad thing, as many have been affected by the global downturn, losing their jobs. We hope it will recover quickly. For the time being we’re just happy and fortunate to be flying again!
Do Your Research
While we’ve made every effort to ensure we’ve presented accurate information, the situation is changing continually. We therefore recommend you check directly your home and destination government websites before travelling. For more detailed information about travel to the UK during the COVID pandemic visit: https://www.gov.uk/uk-border-control
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