I flew again - and survived, but it triggered mixed feelings - Alastair Dalton

Fancy flying again? I never intended to so soon – and found it part gamble, part a matter of trust.

5:20pm on a Sunday at Glasgow Airport. Picture: The Scotsman
5:20pm on a Sunday at Glasgow Airport. Picture: The Scotsman

For those anxious about Covid-19, boarding an aircraft is probably the last way you want to travel.

I hadn’t taken any public transport since lockdown in March, fortunate to be able to drive, cycle or walk instead.

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But a family bereavement necessitated a trip to England – and the combination of a flight and a hire car seemed the least risky option.

A deserted departure area at Glasgow Airport looking onto a collection of parked British Airways aircraft. Picture: The Scotsman

It was certainly a very strange experience, making my way through Glasgow Airport on a Sunday afternoon which was so quiet it was like making a behind-the-scenes visit to an unopened terminal.

The largely deserted, cavernous check-in hall was followed by a very short queue through security, no one browsing in duty free and most of the airside shops and cafes closed.

Large swathes of the departure areas were empty, affording uninterrupted views of empty aircraft.

A closely-parked cluster of British Airways planes resembled a giant metal sculpture.

Planes but no passengers at this Glasgow Airport departure gate. Picture: The Scotsman

The lack of passengers meant you could clearly hear the building’s air conditioning, and the sound of the few feet that passed remained audible until they had passed far down the corridor.

But boarding my flight changed the spatial dimensions from one extreme to another.

The Loganair aircraft was just three seats across, and although less than half full, fellow passengers I’d been able to keep far apart from in the terminal suddenly seemed very close.

This is where it’s trust or a gamble.

The British Airways departure area at Glasgow Airport. Picture: The Scotsman

Airlines insist the risk of coronavirus transmission is low because of air recirculation systems with hospital-grade filters, though there have been cases.

I had chosen a single seat on one side of the aisle, with no one immediately on the other side.

But taking no chances, I also switched the air vent above my seat to full blast – as recommended.

I wondered how I’d feel having to wear a face covering all the way from arriving at the airport to stepping outside at the other end – the best part of three hours – but that didn’t prove a problem or irritation.

WHSmith at Southampton Airport. Picture: The Scotsman

It was just odd seeing others taking theirs off to eat during the flight, having been surprised to find Loganair were still serving free Caramel wafers and cups of water.

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A unique chance to ask ourselves whether flying is necessary

Arriving at Southampton – one of Glasgow’s sister airports – and it was a return to solitude.

Returning three days later, 5pm on a Wednesday seemed even quieter, all the car hire desks already closed, the hall deserted.

In the terminal, no chance of a snack or something to read at the “temporarily closed” branch of WHSmith, a notice attached to the shutters laughably advising would-be customers they could “continue to shop with us” online.

Would I fly again? Probably, but it would have to be a very necessary journey, like the one I made.

5pm on a Wednesday - but all car hire desks at Southampton Airport are closed. Picture: The Scotsman

If the airport and aircraft had been busier, I might feel differently.

But that is exactly what the aviation industry needs.

It’s a ghost of its former self and desperate for a revival.

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