591 days. This is how long it has been since I last boarded an aircraft. Little did I know, when waiting in the British Airways lounge at JFK that the flight back from New York would be my last flight in a very long time.
Five hundred and ninety-one days! As someone, who would average 80 to 90 flights a year and who’s record still stands at six flights in seven days, this is almost beyond belief.
But here we are. After everything, I am finally ready to go on my first business trip again. And to ‘ease’ me back into travelling, it would be a day trip to Luxembourg, to visit just one client. Early morning flight from London City Airport to Luxembourg and back the same evening.
However, of all countries, Luxembourg probably wasn’t the best to start with. As Luxembourg isn’t actually open for all travellers yet. Until the end of 2021, you are not allowed to enter Luxembourg from a third country (and thanks to Brexit, this is what the UK is now), unless for a very valid reason. Lucky for me, the same doesn’t apply for EU citizens, so even though I would have needed a special visa to enter on my British passport, using my German one was fine. Although, me going there for work would have been a valid reason, all I would have needed was a letter from the consulate granting me access into Luxembourg for my work trip (which sounded a lot more complicated than it actually was for my colleague to obtain). But that wasn’t the only issue. Luxembourg also doesn’t acknowledge the UK vaccination certificate. Meaning, anyone vaccinated in the UK needs to get tested ahead of travelling.
I was vaccinated in the UK. But courtesy of my recent trip to Germany, I do have a Germany issued EU vaccination certificate. So, in theory I should be fine to travel to Luxembourg. But when I called the government hotline to check, they wouldn’t give me a definite answer and still advised that I took a test regardless.
As the PCR test needed to be done within 72 hours of travelling and my flight was on Tuesday morning, I booked myself in for a test on Sunday, with the provider promising to email the results by midnight the same day.
Unfortunately, the results didn’t arrive that night, but they did eventually come through at around 8.15 on Monday morning. Which wasn’t a real problem for me, as we weren’t flying until Tuesday morning. But it almost spelled disaster for my colleague that had her test done Monday morning and who’s results were also delayed.
Paperwork for travelling
To travel to Luxembourg, in theory I wouldn’t need anything other than my German passport and my EU vaccination certificate. But just in case, I obviously also packed my NHS vaccination certificate and my Covid test result.
Check in was done online the day before. However, I couldn’t print my boarding pass. So, this would need to be done at the airport in the morning.
For the way back, I would need to book a day two testing kit again as well as fill in the passenger locator form for the UK 48 hours ahead of arriving back.
Arriving at the airport
One of the things I liked about flying out of City Airport that morning was the fact that it is a small airport. So, rather than having to worry too much about loads of people around me, it would hopefully be nice and quiet.
Although I haven’t done any of those recently, I certainly am no stranger to early morning flights. The airline advised us to arrive two hours ahead of flying, to allow sufficient time for additional checks. With our flight at half seven in the morning, I booked the cab to pick me up at 4.40am, giving ample of time to get to City Airport in time. Ample as in the Luxair counter wasn’t even open yet when I arrived at 5.15 (there wasn’t any traffic along the way AND the cab showed up 10 minutes early).
As expected, (or rather hoped for) the airport was fairly empty, but then again, it was very early in the morning. There were still the usual hand sanitisers and safety posters in place, but other than that it looked more or less the same as always. They did however ask you to wear a face mask whilst in the airport.
At the check in counter, it became clear why I was unable to print my boarding pass at home. As staff needed to check my documentation before I could be issued a boarding pass. Just out of curiosity, I decided to try with my EU certificate first and keep my test result in the bag. And guess what? Yes, it was totally fine. They briefly glanced at the certificate on my mobile and didn’t check any further details. If only I (or that lady at the hotline) had known for sure.
With my boarding pass finally in my hand, it was business as usual.
Next stop security. Which was actually quicker than it used to be. As it seems City Airport had meanwhile upgraded their security scanners and there was no need to remove liquids or laptop from my bag.
It being very early morning, airside was fairly empty, and a lot of the shops and restaurants weren’t open yet. Meaning, breakfast had to wait half an hour. But at least there were loads of seats available.
On board the aircraft to Luxembourg
As usual, the gate was announced about 30 minutes before the flight and boarding commenced shortly after. Aircrafts from City Airport are usually fairly small and this Luxair machine was no exception. And there weren’t many people boarding either. Resulting in almost everyone having their own row of two seats for the flight to Luxembourg.
If you’ve never flown Luxair, bear with me a little. I promise I will write a proper run down on what to expect on board a Luxair flight soon.
As in the airport, face masks were mandatory throughout the entire flight. Other than whilst eating and drinking. Yes, believe it or not, Luxair is actually one of the few to still cater during the short flight to Luxembourg.
One thing that was different to ‘normal’ flights was the fact, that we had to fill in a Passenger Locator Card, as required by Luxembourg law.
Arriving at Luxembourg Airport
Upon arrival, Luxair announced that disembarking would be done row by row and everyone was meant to stay seated until it was their turn. In theory at least. In reality, there were so few people on board, that we could get off the plane in an orderly fashion without strictly adhering to that row-by-row policy. And by the time we all had to get onto the bus, it didn’t really matter whether you’ve kept your distance getting off the plane (as staying clear of one another on a bus is a little challenging).
Other than passport control, there weren’t any further checks at arrival. I guess since no one was allowed to board the flight without proving they had all required tests, vaccinations and reasons to travel, there was no need to check it all again upon arrival. With my German passport, I could still use the EU arrival gate. For my British colleague passport queue was a little longer. And she got her passport stamped.
Before travelling to Luxembourg, I did check whether any special type of facemask was required (remembering that Germany would only allow FFP2 or medical masks). However, it seems that any face covering is fine for Luxembourg. Or at least I couldn’t find any information suggesting otherwise. But just in case, I had packed one of my FFP2 mask anyway.
It did seem as if everyone was actually adhering to that requirement. In recent weeks you would see less and less people in the UK wearing their face masks on public transport, however I don’t think I saw anyone at the airport without a mask (or at least I didn’t notice anyone). And I was promptly told off on the way back, when I completely forgot to put my mask back on after finishing my dinner (honestly not on purpose, we just simply forgot as we grabbed our stuff to head to the gate).
Back at the airport
As there wasn’t a flight back until around 7.30pm we had plenty of time for our client meeting. Especially since that was only half an hour drive away. So absolutely no rush whatsoever.
This wasn’t the first time I was flying from Luxembourg Airport. So, from memory, I knew that it wasn’t a very big (let alone very exciting) airport.
Other than a duty-free shop, there wasn’t much there. But since we had the same issue going back than we had flying out, as in not being able to print a boarding pass, we were back at the airport a good two hours ahead of our flight.
At the check-in counter, we had to present our documents again. This time (going back to the UK), it was our passport, vaccination certificate (this time even an NHS certificate was fine, my colleague didn’t have to show her Covid test result again) plus the Passenger Locator Form, that is required for anyone entering the UK.
But again, the checks were quick. And so was security. Giving us plenty of time for a little browse in the duty-free shop and for dinner.
Flying back to London
The flight back was a little busier than the morning flight out. It was the same type of small propeller aircraft, but this time almost all rows were occupied. With randomly allocated seats, my colleague and I couldn’t choose to sit together. But by shire luck, we ended next to each other anyway. If I had to ‘cuddle’ with someone on the flight back (I can’t say it was a very roomy flight cabin), I’d rather have my colleague than a complete stranger.
Arriving back in the UK
Upon arrival we got off the plane and straight down to passport control (hooray for the very short ways at City Airport). Arriving in the UK, e-gates are still a thing, even for people with British passports. And, as during the arrival in Luxembourg in the morning, other than passports, no other checks were done. Meaning we managed to get out of the airport and on with our journey home relatively quickly.
All that is left to do now is take my day two test, sometime in those first two days after arriving. Easier said than done though. I booked my day two kit last week; however I am still waiting for it to actually arrive. I guess, I will have to give them a call today. As otherwise, I might struggle to take a day two test by tomorrow if I don’t actually have the test.
So, how did it feel flying again?
To be honest, I was a little unsure how I would feel flying again after such a long time. I mean, after all, I hadn’t been on board an aircraft for 19 long months. But, same as with our recent trip to Germany and back, it was all the faff before the trip that made me anxious. Working out, which paperwork and tests one would need. Worrying that we forgot something important or that the tests wouldn’t arrive in time (or God forbid we would test positive the day before we travel) and so on… But on the actual day all was fine. I got back into my travel routine fairly quickly and didn’t feel terribly anxious flying again. And looking out of the window and seeing the sun rise above the clouds made me realise, just how much I missed it over those five hundred and ninety-one days.
Tell me, have you been on board an aircraft again? How did it feel for you?