Flying With Covid To Spain
Written by Dan Kirwan
After 10 months of enforced travel restrictions, I finally plucked up the courage to fly for work commitments and enjoy some long overdue family reunion time. I was flying from Dublin to Barcelona, so did not require a PCR test to enter Spain, but it was mandatory to fill out a Health Control Form online, stating my reasons for travel, where I would be staying in Spain, and confirming I was not experiencing any symptoms of the virus.
The Republic is currently not on Spain’s “High Risk” countries list which is updated every 2 weeks. If you are travelling from a country considered to be at risk, passengers must carry a certificate of a negative result of the RT-PCR/TMA test for COVID19, carried out 72 hours prior to arrival. For peace of mind, I booked a PCR test at Dublin Airport with a company called Randox Health, who claimed that they would have my results in 24 hours.
“The Randox Health PCR test was an epic fail”
“The Randox Health PCR test was an epic fail”
I dislike paying upfront for any service as you have no comeback or leverage if anything goes wrong, and Randox really took the biscuit on this occasion. The test center at Dublin Airport was a prefab and you had to Q outside in the cold and rain before the booked appointment slot. After five days and repeated calls and emails to the Randox Helpline, which is basically a third party call center, my test results failed to materialise.
I was given no explanation or response and to cut a long story short, I am currently trying to get my money back from this company via Visa Chargeback. Avoid these private companies like the plague and my advice is to book your PCR test with your GP who can refer you for a free test with a professional medical company.
I flew with Ryanair, a company I had fallen out of love with during the early stages of the pandemic, due to their scurrilous behaviour around refunds earlier in the year, but as the Irish company was one of the few airlines in the air trying to beat this pandemic, I felt they deserved another chance, as Micheal O’Leary must have suffered a road to damascus moment with his free flight changes deal, an offer too good to refuse from the ex accountant.
I had also observed that Ryanair were not cancelling flights and I could see why – his jets were full on both legs of my journey. On my Barcelona – Dublin leg, it was easy to get through customs on my Irish passport, but it was very quiet in Barcelona with Ryanairs old Terminal 1 building closed with all flights operating out of T2.
I did notice quite a few British nationals on the flight and I overheard one man saying he took a ferry into Belfast from the UK before travelling by train to Dublin thus avoiding any border controls and the requirement for a negative PCR test. He was taking the same route home. The man was not wearing a mask on board the flight, (he had it boarding) but was not approached by Ryanair staff to put it back on and flew without it throughout the flight.
I don’t blame Ryanair staff – they are not paid enough to enforce Covid 19 health laws and Ryanair don’t want to go down that road id guess. Departing Barcelona Airport there was a heavy police presence at the departure gate, randomly checking passports after you passed through the gate.
Security was a breeze in both airports, the first time I ever had nobody in front or behind me at security gates
On arrival in Dublin it was business as usual, no checks or stops, just the normal passport control where I was asked to present evidence that I had completed a location form, which was easy to fill out online. A flash of my phone screen with the email confirmation was enough to get a wave through. Things were much more professional and serious flying into Barcelona, where I received a QR code after completing a more detailed locator form.
The airport was deserted and passport control for our full flight was as per normal, it was only when we descended into the baggage reclaim hall, that we experienced the full health checks and Covid 19 controls, everything up to then was normal. Temperature checks, Doctors in white coats, Guardia Civil and airport security staff, were all present sorting those with QR codes into one lane, and those with paper forms into another. It was a thorough check and much more formal than Dublin airport.
So to conclude the report. Spain at present is taking the Covid19 screening seriously, so don’t rock up without the relevant, in date documentation, or you will be sent home at your own expense. Ryanair clearly state this during the ticket booking process, even offering special insurance to cover this probability.
I got the impression Governments do want you to fly, to keep the industry ticking over, but with safety and tests. I feel the Spanish are using the festive period to train airport staff for its summer tourist season next year which they are keen to open.
I also noticed much higher compliance rates of face mask wearing in Spain compared to Ireland. Security was a breeze in both airports, the first time I ever had nobody in front or behind me at security gates – always the most painful part of the journey for me, so that was an unexpected bonus. Has the experience eased by apprehension flying through airports again?
Yes it has, as I was pleasantly surprised by the experience, due mainly to decongested terminals, so thinking a sneaky trip away this Christmas? Judging by the amount of people Qing at the departure gate in Dublin for Lanzarote on Monday, I would think many already have.
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