Everything you need to know about flying this summer

·6 min read
Face masks are mandatory during all stages of taking a flight (Getty)
Face masks are mandatory during all stages of taking a flight (Getty)

It’s official: international travel is no longer banned. As of Monday 17 May, we’re now allowed to go on foreign holidays – but there are caveats, of course.

Earlier this month, transport secretary Grant Shapps announced the 12 countries and territories that would form the “green list” - the countries we can visit without having to quarantine on return.

Read more: What to do if you've booked an 'amber list' holiday

Currently, they include Iceland, Portugal, Gibraltar and Israel. Summer favourites like Greece, Spain and Italy remain on the amber list and it was also announced today (May 17) that Turkey and the Maldives will be moved to the red list.

While most of us are planning a staycation this year, for those desperate to get abroad, how will flying work? Here's everything you need to know.

What do I need to know before I book a flight?

Foreign travel has been touch-and-go for the past year, so many airlines and hotels have introduced flexible booking policies. It’s safest to book a package holiday to ensure a refund for your flight and accommodation, if your destination moves onto the red or amber list.

Portugal is one of the countries on the government's 'green list' (Getty)
Portugal is one of the countries on the government's 'green list' (Getty)

While most hotels will have flexible booking policies, where you can cancel for a full refund or move the booking to another date, airlines are often not as flexible and will only refund you if they cancel the flight.

Consider this when booking flights for this summer, along with how likely it is that your destination will stay on the green list.

What are airlines doing to help stop the spread of coronavirus?

When the pandemic all but halted the aviation industry early last year, many airlines took measures to ensure planes were as Covid-safe as possible.

Ryanair encouraged passengers to check-in online at home before heading to the airport, meaning bags would only need to be dropped at the check-in desk.

Read more: The world’s highest infinity pool has just opened in Dubai

EasyJet has been disinfecting its cabins daily, as well as introducing a new filtration technology (HEPA) that filters 99.97% of airborne contaminants in the cabin.

British Airways has also introduced a “personal protection pack” that contains a Dettol ‘2 in 1’ hand and surface wipe and hand sanitiser gel.

Staff on all airlines are also wearing protective masks, and passenger numbers are kept low where possible.

Will I need to wear a face mask on the plane?

Yes. Face masks must be worn at all times when travelling. This includes in the airport, when boarding the plane, once on the plane and when going through passport checks and security at your destination as well.

British Airways recommends changing your face mask every four hours, so if your journey is longer than this, be sure to bring multiple filtered masks.

BA recommends changing your face mask every four hours during a flight (Getty)
BA recommends changing your face mask every four hours during a flight (Getty)

Will there be social distancing at airports?

Yes. While social distancing may not be possible on the plane, you should social distance where possible in the airport, staying at least two metres away from members of other households.

Will I need a vaccine passport or a negative covid test to travel?

This depends on where you're going. Those travelling to Portugal must show a negative RT-PCR test result when boarding your flight there. This test must have been taken within 72 hours of departure. Passengers travelling to Portugal will also be subject to a health screening on arrival - basically a temperature check - and if your temperature is above 38C you’ll be required to take a further Covid test before you can leave the airport.

Stricter rules apply for those travelling to Iceland. All travellers need to pre-register before arrival and present a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of your time of departure. You’ll also need to quarantine on arrival for at least six days - you’ll take a Covid test on arrival and again after your fifth or sixth day of travelling.

Read more: Can I take my dog on holiday to EU countries?

Countries like Greece and Turkey, while on our amber and red lists respectively, have said in the past that they will accept a vaccination card as proof that you have had both of your vaccines.

Vaccine passports may be the way forward if international travel hopes to resume any time soon. 

Dubai Airports chief executive Paul Griffiths said the vaccine passports are the only way to resume mass travel. "I don't think there is an alternative,” he added.

Before travelling anywhere abroad this summer, be sure to check the entry requirements of the country you’re going to and make sure you’re aware of what you need to do before travelling.

How has Brexit changed the way we travel?

As the UK officially left the EU earlier this year, Brits now need to make sure they have at least six months left on their passports before travelling to any EU nation.

If your passport has less than six months left on it or if it's more than 10 years old, you’ll need to look into renewing it before travelling to countries in the EU as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Sweden next year.

The government has an easy checker to see if your passport will be valid - you can find this here.

Travel to the EU will also now include having to line up in the “other countries” passport lane, which could see more delays than you are used to.

Watch: Why Britons will get an extra bank holiday in 2022

The government says that some EU borders may require you to show a return or an onward ticket and prove you have enough money for your stay.

Visa-wise, you won’t need one if you’re a tourist visiting the EU with a British passport, which will allow you to stay in EU countries - as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland - for up to 90 days during a 180-day period.

What do I need to know for my flight back to the UK?

No matter which list the country you’re travelling to is on - be it green, amber or red - before returning to England you will need to present a negative Covid-19 test pre-departure. If you arrive in England without proof you tested negative, you could be fined £500.

If you are arriving back from an amber-listed country, you will also have to book and pay for a day two and day eight test during your self-isolation as well as completing a passenger locator form.

Read more: Missed out? Here's 5 amazing alternatives to 2021's most popular staycation destinations

Those arriving back from a green-listed country will have to do the same, but only book and pay for one post-arrival Covid-19 test, which should be taken on day two after arriving back in England.

The government is advising against all travel to red-listed nations.

You can find out more about the traffic light system and its regulations at gov.uk

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