Our very own Gray Dawes Travel Reservations Supervisor, Beth Williams, recently travelled from Manchester Airport to Dubai Airport with Emirates – here is her first hand experience of travelling during a pandemic.
Having previously flown Emirates many times Beth was very interested to see what changes, if any, had been made to the flights/service since the start of the pandemic. For comparison Beth’s last flight with Emirates had been on 28th December 2019.
Airport – Manchester
We flew out of Manchester on the 5th December to Dubai, the airport was probably the area I found most changes throughout the trip, some of these I imagine are brought about by Manchester sitting currently in Tier 3.
The area’s leading to the airport building were very quiet, you are only permitted to enter the terminal building if you are flying and I believe this accounted for some of this quietness.
During check in you are reminded at all times of social distancing by the EK ground staff along with airport announcements, check in staff are behind Perspex but apart from there is little difference at all to normal procedure. Boarding cards are not issued electronically and are still provided in paper format, even if you have checked in online.
Airside was where I noticed the most difference, due to the current Tier 3 status there are no restaurants/lounges open and this also applied to Emirates business or first class passengers. Vouchers are issued for the take away from outlets such as Costa where you could only order takeaway items. For the most part retail outlets in the terminal where closed too.
Onboard – Emirates
Boarding was undertaken at a slower rate, it started much earlier than normal and boarding in small cabin sections to avoid queues.
The items onboard such as pillows, blankets and headphones are all in sealed bags to ensure they are hygienic for use. Each passenger is given a traveller hygiene kit, this contains hand sanitiser, three individually sealed masks and plastic gloves. Masks had to be worn at all times while in the airport and on board the aircraft and can only be removed for eating and drinking. Gloves were not compulsory.
All crew are dressed in a Emirates branded PPE, prior to travel I was thinking this may make passengers feel unsafe but in fact it did the opposite as it is very well designed to match the crew outfit and does not look out of place with all the extra items we have seen in other industries during the pandemic.
As you board they discuss the aircraft being fitted with HEPA filters and how they work to replace the air in the cabin 20 to 30 times an hour.
The crew where very attentive in ensuring all passengers had masks on and were wearing them correctly. Drinks and meal service remains the same as pre pandemic, this may be different with other airlines, but as Emirates served individually sealed trays previously this has been kept the same.
Airport – Dubai
On arrival in Dubai international again this is very similar to pre pandemic, although masks must be worn and you are reminded by announcements and floor stickers regarding social distancing.
On arrival there is an area for COVID-19 testing. If you are not carrying your negative test paperwork you can take a free of charge by them upon arrival as the UAE does not require a compulsory test before travel.
If you choose to take a test on arrival you will need to install an app on your phone and then you must quarantine in your accommodation until your result is returned. If you the test result comes back positive you must move to a UAE state run hotel for 14 days quarantine.
I had my test in the UK prior to travel so joined the immigration queue where they checked this along with my passport for the visa on arrival.
Under the new COVID-19 rules most hotels in the city are not offering daily cleaning, laundry of bedsheets and towels at present. This of course can be requested if you prefer but a lot of people seemed happy with this as they felt safer not having additional people entering the room. During our stay we asked for assistance as and when required. As we have seen in UK hotels a lot of items such as the mini bar and magazines are all removed due to being high touch contact points.
I visited two hotels during my time there and both had signs in the lobby and pool areas to remind you of social distancing along with floor markers of two meters. At breakfast and any buffet restaurants they have changed to table service, to avoid contamination risks and tables were distanced from each other.
Temperature checks are in place everywhere, entrance to shopping malls, hotels and separate restaurants inside of hotels. The general rule is a mask must be worn at all times except eating and drinking or whilst in the swimming pool. In each place we visited there is an abundance of hand sanitizers for all to use.
At no point during the whole trip was I worried about sanitation or COVID-19 risks as I feel they have covered all areas and people in the UAE seem to be going continuing their daily routines. All areas of the country are now back open to tourism and all activities have reopened complying to COVID-19 rules and feeling safe.
Have you recently travelled during a Pandemic? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments down below…
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