My first post lockdown flight was two weeks ago, and then I had another flight this Sunday. I didn’t expect the journey to be as carefree as before Covid, but the entire experience was worse than I remembered, and it all started a couple of days before my first departure.
First post lockdown flight – route:
Timisoara – Bruxelles (inside the European Union) (12th of July 2020)
Bruxelles – Timisoara (26th of July 2020)
First post lockdown flight – airline:
Wizzair. I usually am happy with their service, but that does not include the year 2020. I had 12 flights canceled from March to June, and six of them were flights operated by Wizz air. Not a single airline was causing me such headaches that even bringing up the subject is giving me nausea. But I promise I’ll share with you the entire refund process (once it’s finished).
First post lockdown flight- when the headache started:
Four days before the first flight, I received an e-mail from the airline (Wizzair) stating that I won’t be able to board the plane unless I completed a form. (The form was addressed to passengers outside the European Union, outside Schengen, and to passengers coming from third world countries). Since Romania is in the EU was considered green area when I traveled to Belgium, the form didn’t make any sense, because by completing it you were consenting to a 14-day quarantine once you arrive in Belgium.
The whole e-mail created confusion for everyone who received it. I went to the Facebook page of the Romanian Embassy in Belgium, and people were already discussing canceling the flights or calling the call center for information, below the e-mail:
We would like to inform you that in compliance with current coronavirus (COVID-19) regulations all passengers arriving to Belgium from Non-Schengen Countries (regardless of the nationality) are requested to complete related form certifying the compliance with the special precautionary measures including ensuring self-isolation.
You can find the requested form specific to your arrival country attached to this email – please print it, fill it out and have it with you upon reaching the destination.
Please note that this is a mandatory requirement. In case the passengers have not completed in advance the required documents by hand, passengers will not be permitted to board the aircraft and fly!
Thank you for your co-operation and we are looking forward to see you onboard!
Wizz Air Customer Service“
In case you’re wondering why that’s a big deal, one minute with the call center will cost you €1,5.
So I e-mailed the embassy, who replied by asking for my phone number because they didn’t have any information. All the official data said nothing about any quarantine measures. Please understand that I support and respect the government recommendations. I don’t have anything against quarantine and other regulations, but as an airline, you can’t afford to send out incorrect information to your customers!
I could only deduce that the e-mail I received from Wizzair was sent in bulk to all its customers without even taking a look at the routes. The way to get a fast answer without paying: publicly shame them on their verified Facebook page. Almost instantly, I received a response stating they will notify their team.
I also informed the embassy who answered that they would try and ask the airline to change the form (they said the Belgian government might want to have some details about the flight and seat number, which is understandable since it eases the tracking process).
Two days later I received from Wizzair another form… this one did not require you to consent to any quarantine measures and asked you for some basic information, such as phone number, address, flight number, seat number, etc. I printed it and filled in all the required information, but absolutely no one asked for it. Seriously why?
First post lockdown flight – arriving at the airport:
Wizzair also informed us to arrive at the airport two and a half hours before departure. I had checked-in luggage, so I was trying to arrive on time … is it a surprise if I say I was there 2h before my flight and both the luggage drop off and the check-in counter were closed?! (Yes, the Timisoara airport is tiny, and this was a morning flight)
Okay … so I had to wait. By the way, NO temperature checks at the entrance of the airport. They will scan your temperature after you drop off your luggage, just before the check-in. Can’t see the logic here, can you?
However, Charleroi Airport installed temperature check tents outside the airport. You can’t enter the airport without getting your temperature checked.
First post lockdown flight – the airport:
Duty-free is still open, and everything looks normal. The middle seats in the airport are blocked to assure “social distancing.” Also, the public toilets were closed, so make sure you won’t drink too much before your flight; otherwise, you’ll have to endure a long wait. Obviously, it’s easier to close the toilets than ensure proper cleaning and disinfecting. Shameful.
Toilets in Charleroi were functioning but didn’t look extra cleaner than usual to me.
First post lockdown flight- baggage drop off and check-in process:
Nothing changed here. Except they asked me to take out everything I had in my backpack. Seriously that never happened. Ugh. Also, at the passport control point, you’ll have to take off your mask so that they can see your face. This happened at the border check in Timisoara. When I returned from Brussels, the border guard didn’t ask me to take my mask off.
First post lockdown flight- seat allocation:
Wizzair does not have a middle seat blocking policy, you’ll get assigned randomly, and even if you choose your seat and pay for it, you won’t know what happens afterward and if they’ll randomly assign another passenger next to you.
There is no possibility to make sure that no one will sit next to you, so I took the matter in my own hands:
I decided I’m going to be the last one boarding on the plane and then sit wherever there is an empty row. I just didn’t care, but I still tried to ask a cabin crew member if I can sit anywhere else. Even though the plane was half empty, the majority of passengers were assigned at the back of the aircraft, leaving at least six blank rows in front.
My allocated seat was 7A and the moment I got into the plane I saw two middle-aged men occupying the seats next to me and wearing their mask that was only covering their chin.
Even with my initial plan, I kindly asked the flight attendant if I could sit somewhere else, receiving the answer: “you can pay extra for row 1 and 12-13”.
Let me make it clear that those seats were already taken by other paying passengers, who probably wanted to protect themselves and avoid crowds. Why would I pay to sit next to someone else when half the plane is empty? I then asked the flight attendant: “Are we waiting for other passengers to board?”. He rudely answered: “How am I supposed to know?” then turned around and announced: “Cabin crew, boarding completed”.
That was the moment when I threw my bag over the seat 4B and occupied the entire row. Not today, Wizzair, I thought. Another cabin crew member then announced: “You can switch seats if you want to socially distance” LOOOL!
First post lockdown flight- Services onboard:
There were no significant changes, no magazines available on board, and the airline no longer serves sandwiches. But they do serve drinks, peanuts, chips, and sweets. I even saw a woman in front of me, eating chips and then carelessly licking her fingers from salt. YIKES! Also, I didn’t think the seats were cleaner or that Wizzair disinfects the cabin after each flight, but hey, judge for yourself, I have receipts:
Hate to sound like a Karen and I try to keep things positive here. But I believe that airlines and airports must come up with new and uniform solutions to reduce the risk of virus transmission and make passengers feel as comfortable as possible.
Did you fly during this pandemic? If you did, how did it go?