When given the opportunity to work from our home countries, we jumped at it! Dimitra journeyed to Greece, while I made my way to Lisbon, Portugal. However, the excitement of travelling again soon faded at the prospect of the airport experience during a pandemic. I’ve always had some apprehension around the airport experience, even before COVID19, but the uncertainty of what to expect at Heathrow and then again at Lisbon airport, made my head spin and my palms sweat.
First up, I had to plan my way to the airport, of course. I wasn’t too keen on taking the train or tube, and with the luxury of time on my side on a Sunday morning, I decided to jump on a bus. I headed to East Croydon and braced myself for the 90-minute journey to Terminal 2. I have to say I was quite impressed. There were signs everywhere reminding us to maintain social distancing (which was easy considering the double decker was empty) and it only cost £1.50! Yes, you heard it right. Cheaper than a cappuccino to go from SE London to Heathrow. Another bonus, thank you TfL!
I arrived at Heathrow and my preconceptions of a crowded airport were (thankfully) shattered. The corridor leading to the terminal was like a ghost town. While that triggered other concerns – about the current state of the travel industry – it did mean I had plenty of room around me and I started to feel more at ease.
Marching to get my suitcase checked in and I was met with the first queue of my journey. With efficient processes in place, within five minutes I got to the front of the line and was directed to TAP Air Portugal’s check in desk. Unbeknown to me I had gone through a thermal camera. I guess the fact they didn’t stop me was a good sign. Security checks were also a breeze and within 10 minutes I was sitting down with my book waiting to be called to the gate. Heathrow, whilst not empty, felt very quiet.
Boarding the flight was also seamless. A handful of antibacterial wipes were given to me which was thoroughly welcomed. The flight wasn’t fully booked, and the middle seats left vacant, which seemed like a conscious decision by the airline for our safety. Masks had to be worn through the two-and-a-half-hour flight, so before boarding I changed my N95 mask for my (super stylish) Masketeers mask in the bathroom (sticking to the advice that masks should be changed every four hours). A fresh mask on a not so fresh face, but it did make me feel cleaner.
The two hours plus in the aircraft gave me plenty of time to run through every scenario of what the arrival in Lisbon may be like. It’s a small airport compared to most in London, and the prospect of rubbing shoulders with people at border control gave me a little anxiety. But I needn’t have worried. I got off the plane, my NHS test result email and equivalent text message on my phone (two negative results are better than one) at the ready and I strode to border control as if I was holding a badge of honour! Within 20 minutes I was outside the airport, soaking up the warm rays of sunshine and admiring the palm trees. While I waited for my car to arrive I reflected on how wonderful the travel industry and its operators are, that even during a pandemic they can make this expedience enjoyable and hassle-free. Never in my life have I enjoyed being proven wrong so much!
If we all do our research into our destination’s requirements before travelling and keep following the social distancing guidelines, travelling can still be fun! Now excuse me while I grab another custard tart and work from a different home.