Inside easyJet’s first flight as cabin crew cry and passengers sit inches apart

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It was just a short hop from Gatwick to Glasgow but for budget airline easyJet it was a landmark moment.

For when flight EZY883 took off from North Terminal at 7am yesterday, it was the first time in almost three months its signature orange and white tailfin had been seen in skies over the UK.

And for the cabin crew the emotion of getting back to work proved too much from the delight of Captains David Morgan & Kate McWilliams to the tears in the eyes of cabin crew Tina Milton.

Captain Morgan told just 50 passengers on the milestone journey: “This is a very special flight – the first easyJet flight since lockdown is airborne” to wild applause.

And Tina, who has been with the carrier for 22 years added: “This is an iconic industry that has been brought to a standstill and it is heartbreaking. But this feels like the restart and we are all determined to look forward now and keep flying.”

And bookings could pick up as the nation’s favourite summer destination Spain is set to welcome Brits back to its beaches from Sunday.

But industry body ABTA and the Association of British Insurers warned Brits that their travel insurance will not be valid until the Foreign Office lifts its ban on non-essential travel.

While I’m on a domestic flight, the new normal of compulsory face masks, no drinks in the departure lounge and packing your own sandwiches seems like the future.

And as I board the first easyJet plane to take off since March 29, flying in cornonavirus-hit 2020 is a million miles from the carefree feeling that your holiday starts the moment you drop your luggage and head airside for a cheeky pint at 11am.

The new normal means I have to put my face mask on before entering the terminal building and it must stay on until I exit the airport at my destination and I find every time I pass a hand sanitiser station, I am compelled to use it.

But with hardly any flights leaving yesterday, security was a breeze even though there were gaps of two metres between passengers and we were still subject to the usual measures.

With our flight a rarity and running at just 30% capacity, only Boots was open airside for snacks, drinks and travel essentials.

We were wise to stock up as the on-board trolley has been axed.

But the silence is disquieting – it was only broken by a detached tannoy voice telling me and a handful of other passengers to keep a safe distance. Any talk between the groups of travellers was muffled by their face masks.

Once on board, keeping two inches from the next person was impossible never mind two metres as three of us were seated elbow-to-elbow with no empty middle seat as a buffer zone.

The person in the middle asked to be moved and drew gasps of relief as his request was granted and we felt we could breathe again.

It was clear you cannot conform to social distancing on a plane.

Despite the drawbacks, easyJet boss Johan Lundgren is confident his 344-strong fleet has every measure in place to protect both crew and passengers from the risk of coronavirus infection.

Planes have a hospital-grade air filter system which cuts out 99.97% of airborne germs to guidance about regular handwashing.

As Spain announced it was relaxing its restrictions, Johan urged the Government to ditch the UK’s 14-day quarantine rules for those coming into the country and negotiate airbridges with Spain, Greece and Portugal.

He said: “They are a better alternative as you can take into account the infection rates of the country you are flying to.”

With airlines like Ryanair and BA looking to kickstart their flying schedules ABTA urged the Government to provide a “coordinated plan for restarting international travel safely as soon as possible, enabling holidaymakers and businesses to plan ahead.”

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