Lots of distancing, no long-distance: airlines cautiously return to the sky

Revenues have dried up, thousands of staff have been furloughed or given notice of redundancy, and airport terminals have been closed or left eerily empty, while airlines sought emergency loans to survive. Ryanair has maintained a skeleton service between Dublin and British airports and a handful of flights from Stansted to Europe while grounding 99% of its aircraft. Next Sunday it adds 79 routes between the UK and Ireland and Poland, which has reopened borders and lifted restrictions this weekend. There will be enough reminders plastered around to not touch anything as to make the hardiest traveller a nervous germophobe British Airways – the flag carrier now branded a “national disgrace” by MPs for its plans to cut jobs and alter conditions – had announced its intention to restart flying in earnest from July. Trolley service is to be scrapped or reduced, distancing enforced where possible, toilet visits discouraged, and enough reminders plastered around to wash hands and not touch anything as to make the hardiest traveller a nervous germophobe. If few parents can ever have happily contemplated the airport stage of a family trip, the lurking threat of a deadly virus may push the dread too far, even despite easyJet’s efforts to ease the pain by issuing comic face mask covers (forkids). “As soon as the straitjacket is taken off bygovernment, people seem to be booking travel.” Load factors – the average proportion of seats on a flight that are occupied – have surpassed 70% in Turkey. The International Air Transport Association has claimed that enhanced biosafety measures make “airport and aircraft environments exceptionally sanitised and controlled public spaces”. Patrick Ky, the executive director ofthe EU air safety agency, Easa, said: “We are confident that, providing individuals behave responsibly and abide by the measures being put in place by airports and airlines, passengerscanreturn to the skies with confidence.” But while the cooped-up population may be emboldened to take a quick break in Portugal, a rally for the long-haul travel that once filled BA’s coffers looks further off.