My Experience Flying During a Pandemic | UAE to UK

Countries around the world have issued specific rules and regulations to limit the spread of COVID-19 and keep you protected when you travel.” Etihad Airways

The escalation of COVID-19 across the world has profoundly affected travel in 2020. The global pandemic has caused widespread disruption to the travel industry and particularly international air travel. Making the decision to travel is a personal one, weighing up all the pros and cons and factoring in the quarantine rules in both your home country and destination. I decided to take that risk, flying from the UAE to the UK and back again with Etihad Airways. Preflight COVID testing was well organised and efficient, apart from the reduced number of passengers and the implemented social distancing measures everything felt fairly normal and very safe. 

Abu Dhabi to London

Abu Dhabi airport has adopted extra measures to ensure the safety of all passengers. Everything felt safe and well thought out. Seating at the boarding gate was spaced out so passengers were socially distanced at all times.

The flight and measures taken by Etihad were impressive. Ground and flight staff were in full PPE throughout the journey. My flight was very empty so it was easy not to mix with other passengers.

Things to remember

  • Book the mandatory COVID-19 PCR test a maximum of 96 hours before your flight, only passengers with a negative test are permitted to fly. I had my test at Mediclinic (when I flew the test was chargeable but I believe that it’s now incorporated into the flight ticket cost from Abu Dhabi until 31/12/2020)
  • Print out your results – I was asked to show it at check-in and at the boarding gate
  • Get to the airport in good time to allow time for the extra checks and procedures (I was there 3 hours before)
  • Masks are compulsory at the airport and throughout the flight but can be removed temporarily to eat and drink.
  • When I flew all the airport shops and restaurants were closed (I understand some are now open)
  • Safety kits are given to passengers on board with hand sanitiser, mask and disposable gloves. The aircraft was very clean and disinfected
  • Onboard services were simplified with a reduced menu choice and less interaction with staff but they are still on hand to assist if required
  • One bathroom in each cabin was restricted for staff use only
  • UAE flights are currently flying into Heathrow Terminal 2
  • All passengers must complete the UK government’s online Passenger Locator Form 48 hours before arrival – click HERE (I was asked to confirm the address where I was quarantining and show the form, other members of my family were not)
  • You have to quarantine for 14 days on arrival into the UK

Heathrow was more disorganised then Abu Dhabi airport in terms of social distancing, flights from several destinations converged together in the immigration area which was not great but manageable. Check for any rule changes before you fly – click HERE. Rules are constantly changing so it’s always best to keep checking your airline’s website and the updates from the country you are flying to – if you are flying to the UK click HERE

London to Abu Dhabi

A COVID-19 PCR was required to board my return flight to the UAE. Etihad has an easy to use section on their website where you can locate your nearest testing centre and book your test online, you may to travel and our nearest centre was in London.

Things to remember

  • You will only be permitted to enter Abu Dhabi by air if you are a UAE national or resident with a valid visa. All other visa types, including tourist visas, are unable to enter. Tourists can enter via Dubai and travel to Abu Dhabi by road (mandatory 14 day quarantine will apply once you cross the border)
  • Book the Mandatory COVID-19 PCR test a maximum of 96 hours before your flight, only passengers with a negative test are permitted to fly. I booked my test via and had my test at Boots in Regent Street (Piccadilly Circus end) in the upper level clinic (cost was £122 payable at booking). This test was unpleasant with samples collected from three areas of the throat and the nostrils
  • Results were sent by text within 48 hours. If your results are delayed you can rearrange your flight for free by contacting Etihad Airways
  • Abu Dhabi residents are no longer required to have ICA approval to return but must still register on the site and receive a green tick to fly – click HERE (I had this green tick but still needed further approval at check-in as did all the other passengers)
  • COVID-19 negative test results must be shown at check-in (via my phone)
  • Get to the airport in good time to allow time for the extra checks and procedures (I was there 3 hours before)
  • You will have COVID-19 PCR on arrival into Abu Dhabi airport before immigration (mandatory for all passengers 12 and over)
  • Once you have gone through immigration and collected your luggage you proceed to the arrivals hall to get your electronic tracking device fitted to your left wrist. 
  • When you reach your quarantine destination you must send a What’s App of your location. Turn on your tracker and keep it charged, it must not be removed and can be worn in the shower/bath. Removal of the device or breaking quarantine will result in financial penalties
  • You must self-isolate in this designated place for 14 days without any outside visitors
  • Download the Al Hosn app, the UAE’s official COVID-19 results and contact tracing app – all your PCR test results are logged on here
  • On Day 12 you must visit Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) to have another COVID-19 PCR at the Prime Assessment Centre. You go to G, the designated purple hall where you must present your Emirates ID. Permission to transfer between your home and the testing centre is sent retrospectively by text message once you complete the PCR test. 
  • My results were sent by text within 24 hours and also showed on the Al Hosn app.
  • Lots of parking and taxis available outside the testing centre entrance.
  • If your test is negative you return to ADNEC (Purple Hall) on Day 14 to have the tracker removed

Top Tip – Plan to visit ADNEC in the afternoon as it seems to be quieter, I went at 4pm on Day 12 and 3pm on Day 14 and I was in and out quickly both times.

Shops and restaurants at Heathrow Terminal 2 were all open albeit with social distancing measures in place. Seating at the boarding gate was spaced out so passengers were socially distanced at all times.

If you decide to travel during the pandemic take the necessary precautions to keep yourself and those around you safe. Keep checking any updates from your chosen airline and relevant governments. Be prepared to complete any required self-isolation and that things may change with decisions out of your control that may impact your trip and your return. Personally I was very impressed with Etihad and all their safety measures and everything the Abu Dhabi government has put in place to restrict the spread of coronavirus.

Read Etihad’s Travel Guide for all destinations HERE

I travelled from Abu Dhabi to London at the beginning of August and back again in October with Etihad Airways. All views are my own based on my personal experience. Unless otherwise stated all photos © Jo Brett 2020. All rights reserved. Aircraft photos used with courtesy of Etihad.

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