Up, Up and Away – What To Expect When Flying

While we wait patiently for the green light from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office allowing us to travel abroad again when it’s deemed safe to do so, things are gathering momentum in the travel industry in preparation for when this happens.

One aspect that’s going to feel different is when we board a plane as the reality is that precautions against coronavirus will travel with us. Hygiene and safety factors are pretty easy to steer once we’ve landed and are in a position for a well-earned holiday. The tricky part is the transit. Thankfully, the right people in the right places have given that plenty of thought.

When we next jet above the clouds, we can expect things to have changed – and some aspects might suit us better. For example, some airlines are spacing passengers out, while others will cut back on their call-outs for trolley service and duty free. But airlines differ in their approach to COVID-19, so we’ve looked at what we can expect when we next fly on Britain’s most popular airlines.

Ultimately, there’s plenty to reassure us – which means that elusive summer holiday could become a reality in the not too distant future.

British Airways

While the plane is disinfected before every flight and the air-filtration system is the best available, the biggest effect of coronavirus for passengers is that a face mask must be worn on board, and BA suggest this should be changed every four hours. Once you’re settled in your seat you’ll find hand sanitiser, antibacterial wipes and a sealed bag to place used protective equipment in. Later, there’ll also be an adapted food service to limit contact, and vegetarians take note: special meals (including kid’s meals) won’t be available. Finally, there’s no duty free shopping on board, so buy your presents before or after your flight.

Virgin Atlantic

Virgin Atlantic mainly fly long haul so their safety measures are rigorous. Not only are planes disinfected after every flight, but ‘fogging’ (electrostatic spraying) ensures disinfectant falls on every surface. When you’re at your seat you’ll find a health pack with medical-grade masks, surface wipes and hand gel – and you’ll have to use that mask throughout the flight. Seating is spaced out, and the food and drink service has changed to help reduce contact. When you’re flying the air filters replace the air every two to three minutes, so you can breathe easy.


With Ryanair, passengers will still be able to buy food and drink onboard – but items will be pre-packaged only, and only card payments will be accepted. Journeys will also differ as face masks will need to be worn. And rather than queue for the toilets, you’ll need to ask the cabin crew and wait in your seat. They’ve got other hygiene factors covered too: all aircraft are fitted with high-grade air filters, and surfaces will be disinfected every night with chemicals that last 24 hours.


Be prepared for noticeable onboard changes when you next fly with easyJet. Like most airlines masks will be mandatory, and there won’t be any trolley service. The airline will provide hand sanitiser and disinfectant wipes, which will help minimise the risk involved in flying, especially as filtered air replaces used air every three to four minutes, and the cabin is disinfected every 24 hours. We better get used to these changes. Chief executive Johan Lundgren explained: “These measures will remain in place for as long as is needed to ensure customers and crew are able to fly safely as the world continues to recover from the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.”


The most connected airline is also the most cautious: not only are face masks mandatory onboard, but for some destinations, gloves are too. The air filters and disinfectant procedures are top-standard. And among the enhanced hygiene measures is a promise that on flights longer than 90 minutes, they’ll lay on an extra member of crew dedicated to cleaning the toilets. If you’re travelling through Dubai, expect everyone on your flight to have passed through a fever detection scanner – which helps for that extra peace of mind.