Are you jet set? We flew to Portugal today and this is what you need to know

·5 min read
Tiggy Duchesne and Henry Collins admitted friends are a little jealous of their escape to Portugal as they prepared to fly to the sunshine on Monday - Geoff Pugh 
Tiggy Duchesne and Henry Collins admitted friends are a little jealous of their escape to Portugal as they prepared to fly to the sunshine on Monday - Geoff Pugh

On board flight BA500 to Lisbon, there was a distinctly celebratory mood in the air.

For those lucky – or canny – enough to have bought a ticket on one of the first flights to a "green list" country it was, finally, an escape from lockdown, Chris Whitty and, of course, the British weather.

Even the endless form-filling, pre-flight Covid tests and a 4am car journey to the airport couldn't take the edge off the sheer joy of taking to the sky for the first time in more than a year.

The merest whiff of aviation fuel on arrival at Heathrow had been enough to set the pulse racing, never mind the thrill of being told to put liquids and gels in a plastic bag.

Face masks aside, this felt every bit like the milestone we have all craved – a return to near-normality that had been little more than a pipe dream only a matter of weeks ago.

"I feel so much more excited than I would normally be about flying abroad," said student Tiggy Duchesne, 21, flying to Portugal with her boyfriend Henry Collins, a property surveyor. "It's partly because of everyone else's reactions. People are saying: 'What? You're actually going abroad on holiday?' – there's a bit of jealousy there.

"We booked it a couple of months ago on the off chance that we would be able to come, and we can't wait to get there. It's unbelievable even to be on a plane, really."

A word of warning – if you're the sort of person who constantly panics that they have left their passport at home, even when you already know it’s in your bag, the list of forms you now need to have with you might bring on a fit of the collywobbles.

If you want to fly to Portugal you will need to have with you:

  • A certificate proving you have tested negative within 72 hours of flying

  • Proof you have booked an appointment to take a test in Portugal

  • A copy of your passenger locator form

  • Proof you have booked a day two test when you return

  • An antigen test to use three days before you come back (the tests will cost you around £150 per person)

  • your passport (which must be valid for at least another six months as a result of Brexit)

British Airways passengers checking in online must first upload the relevant forms – which are then verified by BA staff – before you can proceed, which is a struggle if you're not tech-savvy (I personally was not aware of the "print to PDF" function until now), but it does at least give you the reassurance that everything is in order before you leave home.

Armed with a sheaf of documents, as well as apps and QR codes as I arrived at Heathrow's Terminal 5, I had expected a "papers please!" interrogation at every turn.

In fact, getting through the airport was a breeze – no one asked to see anything other than my boarding pass and passport, and the relative shortage of passengers meant there were no queues at security or elsewhere.

Surely, though, chaos would await on arrival in Portugal? Well no actually, as no one bothered to ask me for any of the forms I was brandishing and, after a cheery chap at passport control asked me the purpose of my visit, there was a quick thunk of his stamper and off I went.

The Telegraph's Gordon Rayner completes a Covid test via video link before travelling back to London from Lisbon - Geoff Pugh/ The Telegraph
The Telegraph's Gordon Rayner completes a Covid test via video link before travelling back to London from Lisbon - Geoff Pugh/ The Telegraph

Others on the flight did have their papers checked, but it took seconds, and there were no delays (whether that remains the case once holiday season hits is anyone's guess).

For Claire Madden and Steve Wilson, both 52 and from Brackley, Northamptonshire, the form-filling was a small price to pay for the chance to hit the beach for five days.

Ms Madden, who works in finance, said: "We're looking forward to relaxing with sunshine, fresh air and seafood, and trying to put Covid behind us for a bit.

"I’ve been mainly working from home so I so want to get away. The fact that the weather has been so awful for the past few days only adds to it."

On board the aircraft, there was no social distancing as the flight was almost full, and passengers were told not to get out of their seats unless it was to go to the loo – so there's no chatting to your mates five rows back if you're on a group holiday.

Flight BA500 from London to Lisbon takes to the air on Monday - Geoff Pugh/ The Telegraph
Flight BA500 from London to Lisbon takes to the air on Monday - Geoff Pugh/ The Telegraph

British Airways has, however, spent lockdown rolling out Wi-Fi (cloud-based, presumably) on all of their short-haul aircraft, which is great for your teenagers but the end of an era for anyone who cherished being cut off from the office for a few hours on work trips.

No-one on the aircraft was more deserving of their seats than NHS nurse Miguel Rodrigues, 34, and his wife Natacha, 33, who works in a care home. They were flying home to introduce their seven-month-old son Gabriel to their family in Lisbon for the first time.

"This is such a different feeling from what we’ve been through over the past year," said Mr Rodrigues. "It's a very emotional moment, and the grandmothers are going to be so happy!”

His sister Ana, meeting the couple at the airport, said: "I just wanted to grab Gabriel as soon as I saw him. I’m shaking. It's wonderful!"

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