Flying With Ryanair From Manchester to Malaga in the Midst of Coronavirus
Updated: Aug 23
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There's a lot of information going around right now about whether or not it's safe to travel in the middle of the Coronavirus pandemic. I've been based in the UK since the start of the pandemic, and recently the UK government gave the green light for people to travel to specific countries on holiday. You can find a list of countries that no longer pose a high risk for British travellers on the official government website, which is updated when there is a change in Coronavirus travel restrictions. The big thing people were worried about was having to self-isolate for 14 days when they arrive back in the UK, but as of July 6th this restriction was lifted to enable European tourists to enter the UK, as well as British citizens who have gone on holiday. I had already booked my flight with Ryanair from Manchester to Malaga before this was announced, so it's good to know that when I return I won't have to isolate.
If you're flying to Spain in the near future, you will need to fill out an online Passenger Locator Form, which I was prompted to do when I was purchasing my ticket with Ryanair. It's very easy to fill out, and basically all they want to know is if you have been in contact with Coronavirus recently and where you will be staying during your trip to Spain. The day before my flight, I was also sent an email from Ryanair saying I needed to print off this form and bring it to the airport, which I was confused about because the Spanish health website said you just need to do one or the other. I printed the form off and filled it out just to be on the safe side.
So, is it really safe to travel abroad given the current circumstances? There isn't going to be a perfect answer to this question, and everyone will feel differently about travelling based on their own health conditions, concerns, and their family situation. I've decided to put together a short blog post covering my own experiences flying with Ryanair from Manchester to Malaga following lockdown in the UK and the lifting of travel restrictions - hopefully this will help answer some of your questions.
My Experience Flying During Coronavirus
What's the first thing I noticed as I was heading towards security? How few check-in desks were open and the lack of passengers walking about. I was expecting there to be more people at Terminal 3 than there was to be honest, since the UK government had given the all go for travel to a large majority of European countries, with the prospect of not having to self-isolate for 14 days upon return. There was also only around 10 flights going out of Manchester's Terminal 3 for the entire day, which is a huge contrast to its regular daily departures.
In keeping with the eerily quiet check-in desk area, security was quite empty too. The big difference with the security process was that only one person was allowed to put their bags through at a time, whereas normally there are around 5 people crammed in pushing their bags onto the conveyor belt. All of the airport staff wore masks and gloves, and generally stayed a good distance apart where possible. Overall, this was the quickest and easiest security check I've ever gone through. If they continue only doing one person at a time though, this could easily turn into a nightmare when travel picks up again.
There were hand sanitiser stations set up around terminal 3 for you to use, and I saw the large majority of people using them regularly. There are also announcements every 5 minutes reminding people that it is mandatory to wear masks the entire time you're in the airport, and to maintain social distance where possible. I brought my own sanitisers with me so I didn't need to use the airport ones.
Those of you wanting to do a bit of shopping or get something to eat before flying will be very disappointed. Terminal 3 doesn't have the best selection of shops and restaurants to choose from to begin with, but the only shops that were open when I was there were Boots and WH Smith. So if you want to grab a sandwich and a book you're good to go! It's probably a good thing nothing else is open right now, because it would be very difficult to keep a social distance.
Since there was hardly anyone flying, there were lots of places to sit away from people. Most people were wearing masks since it's mandatory, but I noticed some that were staying further away from people had taken theirs off. There was no one walking around the airport enforcing the wearing of masks either, just an announcement regularly telling people what their responsibilities were in regards to masks and washing their hands regularly.
As I got closer to the boarding gates, I noticed there was a new sign on display. It was basically saying the same thing as the announcements, but in a visual way in case people aren't paying attention or have their headphones on. It's large enough to catch people's eyes, and is an improvement to the non-existent signs in the airport at the start of the Coronavirus pandemic.
When they announced that my flight was boarding, I wondered if there would be a new system put in place so that everyone was standing a good distance from one another in the queue. There definitely wasn't, and I went through the same process as I usually do with people standing too close and pushing their way into the queue. There was only one employee at the gate as well, scanning the passports and boarding passes, so he had no time to enforce any sort of social distancing rules or even to check the size of people's luggage.
There's been a lot of talk about keeping the middle seat free so that people are separated a bit more on-board. This didn't happen on Ryanair. The plane was just as full as it always has been. There were only 3 differences I noticed while flying with Ryanair. The first was that all of the airline staff were wearing face masks and gloves. The second was that they closed the toilets halfway through the flight to what I can only assume was to clean them. And the third was that there were no physical menus to look at. We were told at the start of the flight to download the Ryanair App and you could access the menu from there. The flight attendants still walked up and down the aisle quite a few times, and by the end of the flight they had run out of beer and some of the snacks. People didn't seem to be too put off purchasing things on-board. It's also important to point out that masks are mandatory for everyone on-board, and can only briefly be taken off to drink or eat. There also seemed to be a lot less people using the toilets throughout the flight, and there was no queuing for them either.
As soon as the plane landed and arrived at the gate, everyone jumped up to grab their bags in the usual fashion. The disembarking process was very quick though, so we weren't crammed in for too long. This was the first time I've flown to Malaga and had to get on an airport shuttle bus to the main terminal, so I don't know if it's a permanent thing or not. Only a certain number of people were allowed on each bus, so it wasn't as overcrowded as I expected it to be.
Usually it's a very quick process to get through passport control at Malaga Airport. This time the queue was a bit longer than usual, but I only had to wait 10 minutes or so to get through. When you hand your passport over to be inspected, there is a barrier you need to lean over which wasn't there before, protecting the officers behind the screen.
If you've been to Malaga Airport before, you'll know that after passport control all you need to do is go to the luggage carousel, grab your suitcase, and you're free to leave. Due to Coronavirus concerns, you now need to pass through an additional health check before retrieving your luggage. I filled out the Passenger Locator Form online before my flight, and I also printed it off just in case I needed a hard copy. If you haven't done this before flying, there are forms available at the airport for you to fill out before passing through the temperature check.
The temperature check isn't as scary as it sounds. All you need to do is join the queue, and walk between two cameras which will read your body temperature. You'll then be asked to walk forward once the airport staff have read your temperature on the computer screen. They'll then ask for your Passenger Locator Form, which I had a hard copy of, so I gave them that. I actually didn't see anyone without a paper copy, so it's probably a good idea to have it with you even if you filled it out online. The staff quickly double check your form, and then if everything is up to scratch you'll be allowed to get your luggage.
I've been in Spain for a few days now, and noticed that there are a lot less tourists visiting at this current time even though Spain is open to tourists, which means the beaches are pretty empty apart from the locals. So a trip to the beach while social distancing is really easy to do. Some beaches have strict rules and force you to wear a mask until you've set up your things, but you can take them off once you're all settled in.
Overall, my experience of flying from Manchester to Malaga with Ryanair wasn't too much different than it usually is. There are a few extra measures in place to keep people as safe as possible, but it's difficult to social distance in an airport, let alone a plane. My advice would be that if you're thinking of flying anywhere this summer, please don't fly if you aren't comfortable with people being near you. I tried my best to stay away from other passengers as much as possible, but I couldn't do it all the time. I never took my mask off, and used plenty of hand sanitiser, so I didn't feel overly concerned about flying. I don't know if other airlines are doing things differently or not, but this was my experience flying with Ryanair in July, following Coronavirus lockdown in the UK.
Need some travel inspiration? Here are 18 Incredible Places to Visit in Europe After Lockdown. What better way to social distance than by going on a road trip in a camper van? If you're still planning a trip to Spain, check out my blog posts A 5 Day Road Trip to Toledo & Segovia with VanBreak and The Best Road Trip Destinations in Andalusia for some helpful travel tips in Spain and ideas about where to visit in southern Spain.
Leave me a comment below if you have any recent post-lockdown travel stories or tips - I'd love to hear about them! And remember to follow me on Instagram too for more travel inspiration and photos of unique and historic locations.