Overseas travel is now not only permitted by the Government, holidays are being actively encouraged as the message pivots from “Stay Home” to “Go Out and Spend”. Admittedly the UK Government would prefer it if we holiday in the UK so our economy benefits, but with the weather feeling distinctly “British” and the forecast for the rest of July not looking too convincing, the temptation to book that flight to the Med must be growing.
UK airlines are desperate to get some revenues flowing again and those who fly mainly to sunny Mediterranean destinations are likely to fare better than any long-haul destinations. From 10 July 2020 there will be no 14 day quarantine required on returning to England from 67 countries; the popular summer destinations for us Brits include Spain, Italy, France and Turkey, but controversially not Portugal. At the time of writing (06/07/2020) Portugal has had 44,129 cases of Covid19 and their latest daily stat of new cases was 232. So significantly less than the UK. Seems a strange decision.
Greece is also included on the list of exempt countries, but they are not letting the Brits in until 15 July (nicely timed for the start of the school holidays though).
A rather complicating factor is the fact that the devolved Governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland make their own decisions on quarantine rules and for whatever reasons have decided to have different dates and lists of countries. Devolution has many benefits, but clarity of public information communications is not one of them.
People will wonder whether flying is safe. There are still millions of people who do not feel comfortable about getting on a train yet, so what chance they will want to get on a plane?
A recent article in the travel section of The Sunday Times claims that the air quality on modern aircraft is very good. They quote from IATA (International Air Transport Association) that “Transmission on board aircraft is low, even without special measures.” Referring to a case study they discovered that a passenger on a 15-hour flight from Wuhan to Canada who had a dry cough on the flight and was later diagnosed with Covid-19 was sitting within 2m of 25 people. After extensive contact tracing, no one was found to have caught the virus.
So, although that is comforting to read, it is perception that matters the most and the perception probably still remains for the majority that they would feel unsafe taking a flight this summer. The airlines who have done a good job lobbying the Government for financial support, have a much bigger challenge to get people wanting to start flying again.
The other off-putting factor is probably the hassle of navigating your way through the airport. The same article from the Sunday Times suggests that you need to add extra time to get through the airport in order to take in to account additional social distancing measures.
The dominant low-cost carriers Jet2 and Easyjet both strongly recommend you check cabin baggage using an automated bag drop so that you can embark and disembark more quickly and reduce any contact, however it’s not mandatory. Ryanair, is doing the opposite. They are encouraging passengers to travel only with cabin bags, and are stating that hold luggage passes through up to eight baggage handlers on one journey. Maybe the fact that Ryanair charges up to £25 for a 10kg cabin bag, is another reason why they encourage this. Perhaps a better value proposition is to send your bags before you travel. If you are travelling to Mainland Spain for example, you can pay less than £25 (one way) to send your suitcase ahead of you with an established luggage forwarding company such as Luggage Mule and for this door to door service you can send up to 30kg of luggage.