What it’s like to fly from Scotland to Spain as coronavirus continues to affect holiday plans

The news that quarantine measures were to be lifted between Scotland and Spain would have no doubt left many thinking about jetting off to the sun.

The update on July 20 may also have brought some welcome peace of mind for people like me, who had already booked flights a while ago in the hope that Spain be one of those ‘air bridge’ nations.

Unfortunately things changed overnight the weekend before last – just a few hours before my scheduled flight to Santander from Edinburgh.

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I was meant to be spending a week with friends in the coastal city of Gijon, in the Northern Spanish region of Asturias.

Despite the now-necessary 14 days in quarantine on my return, it’s a trip I decided to take – knowing that although I was still ‘allowed’ to go, I was going against current government advice on non-essential travel.

It’s a decision that some will no doubt see as daft – but hear me out.

For a start, it’s a place I’m very familiar with, having lived there while working as a teacher, between 2010 and 2015. And, having consumed as much information as I could via the local and national press in Asturias and wider Spain, I had done my homework.

Playa El Rinconin, Gijon

While other regions in Spain such as Catalonia, Aragon and Madrid had seen an increase in cases of late, Asturias on the other hand was seeing an increase of around two to four per day – in a region that is home to more than one million people.

Indeed, the region had been named one of the safest places in Europe by the Spanish press, having gone a total of 25 days without a single positive case of Covid-19 until July 7 – and that was a person who had travelled back there from Catalonia.

I decided to take the chance and make my flight, despite the last minute change.

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On arrival at Edinburgh Airport, the first obvious difference was how quiet it was compared to a normal July. Floor markings advised passengers to walk certain ways ans seats were blocked off to maintain distance. The pubs were also closed to passengers, although you could buy alcohol at the cafe areas instead – and the shops and duty free remained open as normal.

The plane to Santander was surprisingly busy, with around 80 of the 189 seats occupied – although strangers were sitting in rows next to each other, passengers were allowed to move to empty rows on request.

Every passenger was also required to wear a mask, and at all times. It’s been reported that flying in 2020 is a ‘very different experience’ but, for me, this was just about the only one – apart from the mask, it felt just like any other flight.

On the plane from Edinburgh to Santander

On arrival in Spain, I scanned a code I had been sent, and filled in info about my visit for track and trace purposes – including my flight and seat number, as well as the address I’d be staying at during my visit.

During my time there, people were preoccupied by the news of a sharp rise in cases elsewhere, along with a small outbreak related to a bar in the Spanish city of Oviedo. But during my whole week, be it in bars, on terraces, in restaurants or at the beach or tourist spots, it seemed like everyone was complying with the rules and wearing their masks.

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Unlike in Scotland, masks are compulsory everywhere in Spain, outside and in any internal public space as well as on transport. You can stop wearing one during exercise or while eating or drinking – but you do have to stick to a strict 1.5 metre distance rule too.

And for that reason, even though I was in a country in which cases were rising significantly, I felt as safe as I would back home in Glasgow.

Playa San Lorenzo, Gijon

Before my return home, I had to fill in a number of forms online, detailing my travel plans, again my flight and seat numbers and my home address – where I would be obligated to spend 14 days as part of the quarantine rules.

This was sent by email, with a response telling me to be prepared to show the document on arrival to UK customs – although I have to say, that didn’t happen upon my arrival in Edinburgh, and I wasn’t scanned for a database like I was in Spain.

I remain unsure if my information was collated or if I may be contacted over the next two weeks, if needed.

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Another surprising element of my return journey was how full the flight was – the majority of folk being Spanish nationals. While some gave the impression they were returning for study or work in Scotland, others seemed to be coming on holiday – which made me wonder if they knew about the quarantine rules that awaited them.

Time will tell – maybe I’ll receive a check-in from the government over the next few weeks, a phone call to see if I’m complying with the rules.

Staying at home for those two weeks isn’t ideal, but it was the price I was willing to pay to go ahead with my trip, as countless other people have done this year already.

Even with very few cases in the region, I’m aware that it wasn’t essential travel – but after months adhering to lockdown in Glasgow, I felt it necessary to get as far away from my desk as possible.

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The instant uplift that some good weather (never exactly guaranteed in Scotland) brings and a change of scenery were needed and I was able to take an already-planned trip while taking all the necessary precautions – all while feeling as safe as I would be if I’d stayed put.

For anyone still planning to go abroad this summer, it is doable – but much like staying at home in 2020, you need to be sensible about it.

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Originally Appeared Here