Just ahead of easyJet’s first flight for 12 weeks, Britain’s airline travellers have been given instructions to minimise the risks of spreading coronavirus – and urged not to take cabin baggage.
The Department for Transport (DfT) recommends passengers check in all baggage, saying: “This will speed up boarding and disembarking and minimise the risk of transmission.”
The intention is to reduce the amount of standing and waiting in the airport aisle.
But travellers who follow the rules face more expensive journeys, unless airlines agree to reduce or eliminate baggage charges
The smallest 15kg checked bag on easyJet for the first domestic flight, from Gatwick to Glasgow on 15 June, costs £25.49.
Airlines have declinied to cut luggage fees or return to the days of a 20kg allowance for all.
A spokesperson for easyJet said: “We are allowing passengers to bring hand luggage on board but asking them to try and minimise this and advising them they will be required to stow it themselves in the overhead lockers.”
British Airways charges extra for checked luggage on its “hand baggage only” fares. It currently allows 46kg of cabin baggage free of charge on all tickets.
The new DfT rules say passengers should check-in online to avoid face-to-face contact at the airport.
Travellers should not be seen off or met at airports, unless they need assistance.
The guidance says: “Wash your hands for at least 20 seconds after using self-service check-in, luggage trolleys and other frequently touched surfaces.”
On board the aircraft, the DfT says passengers should:
- Remain seated as much as possible
- Follow instructions and guidance from crew
- Use contactless payment where possible
- Be aware there is likely to be a reduced food and drink service
- Make the cabin crew aware if you become ill
On arrival, passengers are told: “Leave the airport as quickly as possible.” This instruction is at odds with the advice to check in all luggage, as travellers will need to wait with other passengers at the baggage reclaim.
The DfT has also said passengers should “avoid the busiest times and routes,” though it gives no details about how to identify them.
The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said: “The government’s advice currently remains to avoid all non-essential travel.
“But today we are taking the necessary steps to ensure a framework is in place for the aviation industry to bounce back when it is safe for restrictions on travel to be lifted.”
The aviation analyst, John Strickland, said: “While this is understandable perhaps in the short term, its all a bit haphazard and what the industry needs is a more engaged collaborative relationship with government to plot the way forward by drawing on its expertise.”
Tim Hawkins, chief strategy officer at Manchester Airports Group, said: “This new guidance provides the basis for the restart and recovery of the UK aviation industry.
“With similar protocols being adopted in other countries, and a targeted approach to reopening travel to low-risk countries, we will have the elements in place to get our economy moving again and protect jobs throughout the whole aviation supply chain.”
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, representing British carriers, said the guidelines “pave the way for the introduction of air bridges” – reciprocal free travel agreements aimed at circumventing the government’s new quarantine policy.
“There is no reason we shouldn’t be getting clarity from government on when and how these will be established over the coming days,” he said.
The chief executive of Heathrow airport earlier blamed quarantine for further job losses.
John Holland-Kaye said: “Throughout this crisis, we have tried to protect frontline jobs, but this is no longer sustainable.”
The Foreign Office has advised against all but essential travel abroad since 17 March.