We hope you & your families are keeping well.
With the signs that the lockdown measures in the UK are starting to be relaxed and dates being published for when a number of countries are opening their borders, we are receiving an increasing amount of information about the processes and measures that airports, airlines, car rental companies and hotels are looking to implement to ensure travelling is as safe as it can be. We appreciate that these processes and systems can only be tested once the volume of travellers increases.
From previous experience, theory doesn’t always match the practical approach and to give you an idea of what happens in reality we thought it beneficial to share the experience of two of our clients that travelled to Helsinki from Heathrow earlier this week to carry out essential maintenance work for one of their customers.
Arrival at Heathrow was fairly straight forward and once at check-in, currently you are required to produce documentation from the Company you are visiting, confirming that you are travelling on essential business. The confirmation is along the lines of a Business support letter of the type that is usually supplied for obtaining visas, with passport details of the individual, arrival and departure details as well as the reason for the essential Travel. It took about 15 minutes for the documentation to be verified by the check-in staff, who liaised with the authorities, prior to authorising travel to proceed.
On arrival at Heathrow face masks are required from check in and whilst there are dispensing booths, we would recommend that travellers provide their own and carry with them a supply to use throughout the journey. Most airlines are insisting on the wearing of face masks for the foreseeable future, certainly to the end of August at present. (Should anyone require a bulk supply of face masks for their employees for future travel, we do have a client that can assist in the provision of these in bulk and we would be pleased to put you in contact, just let us know, please click on this link to view the details) /admin/resources/face-masks.pdf
Due to the lack of travellers, passing through passport control and security was quite easy and quick, with social distancing being maintained at all times. This will definitely change when the numbers of people travelling increases. Once you have passed through security, other than W H Smith and toilet facilities, there are no other shops or retail outlets that are currently open.
Most airlines have currently suspended reserved seating capabilities in advance of travel and seats are assigned at check in with social distancing in mind, where this is possible and subject to the number of passengers booked to travel.
Boarding was made in smaller groups, again with social distancing. Once on board, the middle seat was left free. Contact with the cabin crew throughout the flight was minimal, along with the on-board catering - bottles of water and sealed packs of sandwiches and biscuits were handed out after take-off. The Airline also left the last 5 rows of seats at the rear of the cabin free, should anyone be taken ill during the flight. Face masks are to be worn on boarding and throughout the flight.
On arrival at Helsinki airport, there were no apparent scans or heath checks. Immigration did ask questions about the visit and documentation was handed over to confirm that the trip was an essential one.
The main concerns going forward is how the airports and airlines will cope with the increased numbers of travellers as Countries open up, whilst still maintaining social distancing etc. We would predict that longer check-in times would be required, as the process of travelling through the airport will increase with all the additional health measures being introduced to cope with the COVID-19 virus.
Car rental companies have adopted more stringent cleaning protocols with the deep cleaning of vehicles, concentrating on the main touchpoints (steering wheel, gear stick, door handles, vehicle key etc.) to make sure that all vehicles are hygienically clean each time the vehicles are rented. After cleaning each vehicle is locked, so that no one else enters the vehicle until the renter opens the car door.
Hotel chains are also taking additional measures to make sure that their cleaning and hygiene protocols are even more rigorous, with more frequent cleaning of all public areas and the deep cleaning of each bedroom after each guest has checked out.
As more of our clients look to restart travel we will continue to gather information on their experiences and share this with all clients so that you and your travellers are as prepared as you can be to ensure a smooth trip. In the coming days we will look to send out a ‘pre-trip’ check list and whilst we do appreciate this will be very much a moving target we hope the information will be of use.
Should you have any specific questions/queries concerning the re-start of travel please don’t hesitate to get in contact with either Chris or David.
Just a reminder that we remain open as usual throughout this period with both David and Chris operating the 24 Hour Emergency service as always, with the numbers below.
Anyone concerned about any upcoming trips that we haven’t yet been in touch with can call the usual office number during normal business hours or email firstname.lastname@example.org