MADE BY MEMBERS • June 2021
After spending half a year grounded, what does it feel like to finally take to the skies again? Author of travel blog Turning Left for Less, Michele Robson gives us a blow-by-blow account of what the flying experience is like now that travel restrictions are lifting
My alarm goes off, and it takes me a few moments to remember that today I will take my first flight in more than six months. The excitement starts to build. As well as being part of my job, travel is the great passion of my life.
I drive to Heathrow’s Terminal 5 as I don’t quite feel ready for the multiple forms of public transport I would need to get there otherwise. I use a valet parking company, which can often work out cheaper than the on-site car park.
I hand over my keys to the valet company by the terminal, and I’m ready to start my trip. Standing outside the airport, I feel slightly emotional! Before Covid-19, T5 had almost been my second home as I flew once a month on average. As you enter the terminal, hand sanitisers are on hand, as are reminders to wear a mask.
The terminal is pretty quiet, with a small queue at the British Airways check-in desks. I’m soon directed to the golden gates of The First Wing, where Executive Club Gold Members and First passengers can go through a separate channel to check in and go through security. This deposits you straight into the First Lounge.
I don’t need to worry about showing Covid-19 test results on this occasion as I am flying to Jersey, and they allow you to test on arrival. Everyone at the airport seems happy to be back at work, with the security guard even complimenting me on my handbag! As usual, I am greeted by the elegant black horse sculpture as I walk into the lounge. I smile as I pass it, thankful for this welcome back to my travels.
Time for some breakfast in the lounge. There are few advantages to Covid-19, but I think the British Airways lounges are even better now. As well as being quieter, everything is ordered via an app and brought to your table. As a treat, I order some smoked salmon and scrambled eggs with a side of sourdough and a Virgin Mary to kick-start my trip. The staff are super attentive and I can barely get to the bottom of my drink before I am offered another. Breakfast is delicious, and it’s a lovely treat to have someone serve me my food.
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I leave the lounge early for boarding, so I have a quick look around the shops in the terminal as I head slowly towards the gate. Nearly everything is open again, and there is plenty to tempt me. When boarding is called, it starts with row numbers at the back. I am sitting in the front row, so I take a seat near the gate (many of them blocked off to allow social distancing) and wait my turn.
Once on board, I settle into my seat and notice the aircraft is one of British Airways’ new Airbus A320 neos. This means that I will have Wi-Fi and a charging point at my seat. You also get a little hygiene pack with a wipe and some hand sanitiser, so I have a quick wipe around my seat even though everything seems very clean already. The flight is busy, with most seats occupied, but in Club Europe the middle seat is always kept free. Masks have to be worn when you are not eating or drinking, but I am so used to it now, I barely notice that I’m wearing one anymore.
As Heathrow is much quieter, the days of sitting on the tarmac awaiting your turn to take off from the long queue are no more. Within a few minutes, we are airborne and I am back in my happy place, gazing out of the window as we skim the clouds.
The cabin crew quickly springs into action on this short flight and starts offering lunch and drinks. There’s a choice of coronation chicken or feta salad. I go for the chicken, which is well presented and quite delicious. There’s plenty of creamy curried sauce to dunk the warm bread in. I’m delighted to see there’s a wobbly vanilla panna cotta with a berry compôte for dessert. Of course, since I am celebrating my first flight, I have to wash it all down with a glass of chilled Mâcon-Villages white wine. I could even have had Champagne if I’d wanted to be really decadent.
All too soon, I start to spot the start of the Channel Islands as Alderney comes into view below. I start looking out for the first glimpse of Jersey and its golden sand beaches. The sun is shining as we touch down at the airport.
We begin to disembark in small groups, starting at the front to make sure we can maintain social distancing easily. Although there are no jet bridges, Jersey provides a ramp so you can wheel your cabin bag down instead of carrying it. After a short queue for the testing and form inspection, I am free to start my holiday and head off to my hotel in the capital, St Helier, around 25 minutes away.
This article has been tagged BA, Travel Tips