“Will you sit down please and wait your turn.” The reprimand was tired and stern in equal measure. It lacked all of the usual sickly sweet enthusiasm of the air hostess. Cast your eyes around the cabin of any aeroplane as soon as you hear the bump of tyre on tarmac and you will see the same sight. Hands reaching into pockets and bags retrieving mobile phones. As the devices search for a signal and the plane taxis the clunking of seat belts being released follows. We’re on the ground now, we’re not going to die. Generally the next phase begins when the captain announces over the PA system to the cabin crew to prepare to allow passengers off of the plane. In reality this is a slow process but those who have paid extra for a queue jump to get on the plane first and as such are now sat in the middle rows decide they have priority exit too. Yes I’m tarring you with the same brush. You’re not better than me because you spent more money than I did so you could queue up on the left hand side at the gate. These eager beavers erupt from their seats to retrieve their cabin bags and the fallout spreads to the front and back of the aircraft in a Mexican wave. The reality is that the doors are still closed. Those in the aisle seats grab bags, the middle dwellers half stand with crooked necks waiting to pounce, while the temperament of the window sitters is generally the most relaxed. They will move when they’re good and ready. As usual this process began when we touched down at Edinburgh Airport but it didn’t last long, the air hostess mentioned above laid down her warning and hordes of red faced passengers sunk back into their seats. What a difference flying in a pandemic makes.
The jaunt from Luton to Edinburgh was my first experience of flying since the world was turned upside down by Covid-19. The trip served a dual purpose, firstly it was a much needed change of scenery and secondly I wanted to know what it was like travelling via plane in the current climate with hopes of flying further afield soon.
It would perhaps make for a more interesting read if I were to sit here and reel off a large number of differences between flying before Covid and the experience I had of flying during the pandemic. Truth be told, I could write the differences I found on my mask. Which happens to be difference number one. Masks are to be worn door to door, which meant aside from consuming food and drink my face was covered from the point I left my car at Luton Airport until I stepped off of the transfer bus outside Waverley Station in Edinburgh. By this point wearing a mask when out in public has become almost second nature for me but on a longer flight it could become uncomfortable. Ironically, the first person I encountered on entering the airport was an armed police officer sans mask. I wasn’t going to argue with a bloke holding a machine gun though.
Within the airport there were not as many concessions open and social distancing was the order of the day. The terminal was a lot quieter than usual, undoubtedly due to there being less flights at the moment. For me this was a good thing, I’d quite like to experience airports in the same manner in future. The thought of flying and the subsequent build up to a flight can trigger my anxiety and a packed terminal never helps this. I’ve experienced Luton in Piccadilly Circus conditions before and I won’t lie, there was a prickle of tension for me before stepping through security that I may have to face that again but also wearing a face covering.
I find my flight anxiety is worst when I haven’t flown for a prolonged period of time. My last flight before Edinburgh came some 11 months previously and had the added bonus of being a flight with the worst turbulence I’ve ever experienced. That close to a year break bucked the trend of getting back on the horse quickly. When boarding a flight I tend to take a look at my surroundings, the voices in my head wondering whether they’ll ever set foot on terra firma again as I step into what is effectively a large Fanta can with wings and engines attached. Guess which airline I flew with… As such when the safety demonstration is made, I’m one of the few people who seem to watch it avidly. We’ve all heard it before and can recite it in our sleep but there was an addition on this occasion. When disembarking, passengers were told to wait for the aisle in front, or behind to collect their bags and disembark before doing so themselves. As we already know that rule went down like a lead balloon.
And that is it. That’s the post. I wish I could tell you more but I would be a liar.
The return leg was much the same, the only difference between Luton and Edinburgh airports was that after security at Edinburgh the customary red, amber and green buttons to rate your security experience had been removed and replaced by QR code versions. There will be more on QR codes in my post on Edinburgh itself though. I bet you can’t wait.
In terms of flying again in these uncertain times, I would happily do so. Following the rules is important and doing what you have to do to feel safe personally even more so. But the world isn’t going to stop turning and we aren’t out of the woods yet it appears. If the price to pay for travelling is to strap a mask to my face then so be it.