Finally, the day arrived. After several long months I was finally able to travel again! This year has been challenging for the travel industry and I’ve been spending a lot of my time helping clients rearrange their holidays. My last trip was at the end of January when I had a few days in Marrakesh with my sisters; I knew things were going to be very different this time!
Before we even got going, we’d had to complete the dreaded PLF (passenger locator form) for travel to Greece. There has been much in the national and travel trade press about incorrectly completed forms causing pre-travel concern and travel disruption; the family not allowed to travel due to the incorrectly completed form; the uncertainty about which point of entry to add for travel to Preveza (the airport is called Aktion, which many travellers will not know); not knowing whether to add all the family on to one form and how to add more than one child; when will your QR code, needed for travel, be sent to you (midnight Greek time the night before travel, 10pm UK time or shortly after).
We had chosen to fill in one form for myself, my partner and our son. The guidance given by Greek government indicates one form per family in the same household https://travel.gov.gr/#/ . It is also advised that you access this via the Visit Greece app where you can also access the form. I have helped a few clients complete their forms to help reassure them. In this ever changing environment you should also definitely visit and follow the FCO (Foreign Commonwealth Office) travel advice and check the updates for country you are visiting https://www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice
The UK transfer
We travelled to Gatwick by taxi and loved how safe we felt with the measures taken by Just Travel Sussex Taxis. Although there is no screen in their smaller vehicles, as they are long distance cars, you can request one and half of their minibuses do have screens. Additionally, if if your destination is added to the quarantine list after your arrival they will automatically move your booking to the minibus with a shield to protect the customer and the driver. Whilst there will be a minimal additional cost, we feel this shows great safety management.
Gatwick in the era of Covid
We were travelling early in the morning when it’s not unusual for the airport to be quieter, however I had never experienced so few people at Gatwick. In fact, from the time we were dropped off by Just Travel Sussex Taxis to getting through security and airside took just over ten minutes! I must add we were not travelling with hold luggage.
All flights to and from Gatwick are currently operating from the North Terminal as a temporary measure and there are various safety measures in place; Advice includes wearing a mask, social distancing, handwashing and use of hand sanitiser. https://www.gatwickairport.com/at-the-airport/passenger-services/coronavirus/ .
While not all eateries were open at the time of our visit we were able to grab a light breakfast at the Wetherspoon’s Red Lion who offer a table ordering service through their app https://www.jdwetherspoon.com/pubs/order-and-pay-app . There are some changes to their service but on the whole a pleasant experience. We had some last minute shopping to grab at Boots which involved a little queuing due to limited customer numbers and social distancing but otherwise service was the same. It is however wise to check what is open before you visit Gatwick so you do not rely wholly on airport purchases.
Boarding and the flight
Despite some high overnight winds, the flight was called on time. The moment had arrived to have the dreaded PLF form checked. Please note that if flying with Easyjet with hold luggage they will check your form when you go to the bag drop and you will then be given a ticket to wave you through at the gate. At this point we rejoiced as we were allowed through to the gate unlike the poor souls who had entered the wrong date on their PLF. We don’t know whether they were allowed to travel! Please check and double check the form. There is an editing tool for the Greek form although it is not immediately obvious. We can of course help any clients with this facility.
So through to boarding we went. A very civilized experience, passengers were called up row by row with back rows embarking first for safety reasons. It wasn’t long before the flight was ready for take-off. Face masks covering both mouth and nose are of course a requirement throughout the flight apart from when eating and drinking. I prefer wearing paper surgical style 3 ply masks for a period of time although have some prettier affairs for trips out. Easyjet recommend that masks should be replaced every 4 hours so it’s good to make sure you have a supply of your preferred masks with you to account for time in the departure and arrival airports, at the boarding gate, during the flight and of course at luggage carousels https://www.easyjet.com/en/fly-with-confidence .
Excited to be flying again the only negative for me was the absence of the Easyjet Traveller magazine, something I enjoy flicking through en-route. I can certainly live without this, though I can of course access the latest edition on the app at a later date. Despite the lack of menu card, drinks and snacks are available throughout the flight and you can view the menu on the website before travel. https://buyonboard.easyjet.com/# . I suspect that some passengers chose to enjoy some refreshments so they could spend some time with their mask off! It’s useful to note that no cash is accepted on board so be prepared with your card.
Due to a considerate tail wind we arrived at Athens over 40 minutes ahead of schedule. Once the engines stopped, far from the usual chaotic disembarkation as passengers rush to get to passport control, we found the row by row disembarkation a more civilised approach with only the odd passenger seemingly oblivious to the rules. Time for the PLF form to reappear as we were approached by pleasant immigration officials at passport control. A quick scan of the form and we were done. There were no obvious screening measures in place as highlighted in the official guidance for arriving by air, although I believe this depends on your QR code https://travel.gov.gr/#/protocol_air .
We’re here to guide our clients through any confusing travel protocol you might encounter. And, we’re up to date with the latest quarantine lists, so can advise on safe restriction free holidays.
In the airport arrivals it was encouraging to see the welcome boards of some familiar British travel brands waiting for their customers. Let’s hope these quiet days of travel are over soon and the industry resumes it’s overseas services to pre-Covid levels. We certainly can vouch for the safety measures in place during our airport and travel experience!
Next stop for us however was the car hire pick up, as we’d chosen a self-drive independent holiday this year to explore a little before heading for some down time in a favourite villa, set high in the hills in olive groves above the Peloponnese coast. We’ll be bringing you some suggested holiday locations, hotels and itineraries for a truly Greek holiday in Peloponnese in our next blog!