#TravelstartersWhoTravel: Yes, It Is Safe to Fly!

While many of you may be itching to jet off somewhere far far away and melt away your lockdown blues, most people are understandably very hesitant to book a trip, much less climb on an airplane. 

Some of our fearless Travelstarters recently booked domestic and international flights for business trips and to be home with their families.

Read on as our #TravelstartersWhoTravel share their detailed, honest experiences of flying during COVID-19, from pre-flight to touchdown.

Is it safe to fly domestically?

Our Senior Commercial Manager, Linda Balme, flew on a recent business trip from Cape Town to Durban via Mango Airlines. Here’s what she had to say:

Need to travel between provinces? 

Book your essential flight and download your required travel documents. 

What about international travel?

After returning home to his family in the UK, our Head of Performance Marketing, Safvan Vali, booked an Emirates flight from Manchester back to our office in Dubai.

Laura Andreotti, working in BI and Project Management, couldn’t wait to get home to her family in Milan. Her direct Emirates flight from Dubai to Milan departed in the morning.

Here is what they had to say about their trips:

Travelstart - Is it safe to fly

Before the flight:

How did you feel about getting on an airplane?

Safvan: After having been in the UK for 60 days, much longer than the usual visit back home, I was excited to return back to Dubai.

Laura: Excited!

What was the price like? Was it any different to when you last flew?

Safvan: On my return flight from Manchester to Dubai, I paid double the price to what I would usually pay for a one-way flight.

Laura: Super expensive – 4,000 Dirham for a one-way flight (about R18,800).

What documents or permits did you need?

Safvan: At the time of booking (29 June), residents outside of the UAE were required to provide the following:

  1.       Return permit for residents outside of the UAE and approval from General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs (GDRFA) Dubai. 
  2.       Quarantine form (medical and accommodation details in the UAE to ensure “safe” 14 days quarantine if required).
  3.       An additional quarantine form had to be completed and handed at the boarding gates at Manchester Airport.

Laura: Passport and COVID-19 form (provided at the airport before boarding).

How long was the process to get all the required paperwork?

Safvan: I received approval to return back to the UAE 48 hours from the time of applying.

Laura: None.

Did you need to undergo a COVID-19 test to board the plane?

Safvan: No COVID-19 test was required prior to boarding the flight from Manchester. 

Laura: No.

Did you experience any challenges?

Safvan: No. I was keeping up to date with the latest travel announcements. I had joined the “UAE Expats Stuck Abroad” Facebook group which was encouraging while waiting for borders to reopen.

Laura: No.

How soon before your flight did you need to check in?

Safvan: Online flight check-in was unavailable. I was required to be at the airport three hours prior to flight departure

Laura: Online check-in was not available and I was required to be at the airport three hours prior to departure.

Travelstart - Is it safe to fly

Describe the safety precautions at the airports

Safvan: Only passengers were allowed to enter the airport and only two entrances to Terminal 1 were open. Safety posters were visibly placed outside as well as inside the terminal. There were hand sanitiser stations across the airport and constant reminders of safety rules. At Manchester Airport all cafés and restaurants were closed but duty-free shops were open. Unfortunately, the Emirates lounge was closed.

Laura: All the shops and airport facilities at Dubai Airport were open, including duty-free. People were happily sitting down to eat at restaurants. The baggage drop and check-in process went very quickly.

Travelstart - Is it safe to fly

How long did you have to queue at customs and security?

Safvan: There were no queues at customs and security.

Laura: When leaving Dubai, going through security was fast. When I arrived in Milan, the security process was extremely longer than usual. It took two hours to get out of the airport. Once you land in Milan you need to pass through two different controls: The first control is a declaration form you must fill in when you land, providing your details and declaring you are going to self-quarantine. After this check, you’ll pass through the passport control.

This took very long because the flight had around 20% Italian passengers and 80% were other nationalities, so the police spent a lot of time checking everyone’s forms.

In the end, our luggage arrived before we did (which is unusual)!

Travelstart - Is it safe to fly

During the flight:

How was the cabin spacing and seating? Were there any free rows?

Safvan: There were no free rows but the middle seats were kept empty to ensure distance between passengers.

Laura: The flight was full, no social distancing!

What was your onboard dining experience like?

Safvan: The onboard dining experience was no different compared to any other time. Masks could be removed for the duration of the meal service.

Laura: It was ordinary, nothing different. You can remove your mask while eating your meal.

Were there any baggage handling restrictions?

Safvan: No.

Laura: No.

How would you rate the cleanliness and hygiene of the aircraft? How often did staff sanitise areas? 

Safvan: Hygiene was up to standard. Cabin crew regularly announced hygiene reminders and to replace masks and gloves with spares provided in the complimentary travel hygiene kit.

Laura: I was quite upset to see that the level of hygiene was not as high as I expected, for example, they could have cleaned the toilets more regularly.

Travelstart - Is it safe to fly

How comfortable did the cabin crew make you feel and what was their attitude towards passengers?

Safvan: The cabin crew were helpful throughout the flight

Laura: The crew behaved the same as usual.

What sort of protective gear were they wearing (if any)?

Safvan: The cabin crew wore masks, protective glasses and protective clothing at all times.

Laura: They wore masks, plastic glasses and protective clothing throughout the flight.

How was the in-flight entertainment?

Safvan: In-flight entertainment was no different compared to any other time.

Laura: The same as usual.

After touchdown:

Did you have to quarantine or self-isolate after you landed?

Safvan: I was required to sign a COVID-19 declaration form at the end of the flight and to download an application “C19 DXB Smart” on my smartphone for general COVID-19 advice and support. I was told to self-quarantine at home or at an institute until I receive my COVID-19 PCR test results. If my test result was positive, I was required to isolate myself for 14 days and follow the instructions given by the health authority.

Travelstart - Is it safe to fly

Laura:  I must quarantine for 14 days.

Did you need to take a COVID-19 test before exiting the terminal?

Safvan: Yes. I had to take COVID-19 test before exiting the terminal at Dubai airport. I was then allowed to collect my luggage and leave the airport.

Laura: No.


While there is no silver bullet to this pandemic, we can see that airlines and airports have strict safety measures and controls in place to ensure the comfort and security of all its travellers. 

Yes, it is safe to fly and we cannot wait for the skies to fully open again. Until then, stay safe and keep exploring our beautiful country. Stay tuned for more updates on #TravelstartersWhoTravel. 

Find all essential travel information during Level 3 of the national lockdown.

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All information on this blog page was correct at the time of publishing and may change at any time without prior notice. Travelstart will not be held liable for loss or inconvenience resulting from the use of out-dated or incorrectly noted information.

Our Readers Comments

  1. Hi, We are British travelling on a British passport but live in South Africa (am a PR).Had planned to return to UK just before Covid hit and we couldn’t travel. Now want to return to try and sort out a few details and see our family as they have all returned to UK. I want to know how we can travel without having to quarantine in UK (can’t afford to) in November. We would liked to travel from SA to Spain, stay there for 10 days (self quarantine ?) and then fly to Scotland from there. We are both fully vaccinated in our 70’s and have more or less been stuck at home since March last year. Can you advise if this can be done. This would be in November leaving SA around the 1st Nov and then flying to Scotland 15th Nov. We haven’t decided on return date as yet. Would appreciate your advice. It’s very difficult to try and understand all the various rules etc. especially for SA .

    • Hi there,

      Thanks for reaching out.

      We have found the following information for travel to the UK from South Africa. However you would need to contact the Embassy direct for the most up to date information on, travel regulations, travel requirements and quarantine as this information could have changed.

      Covid-19 Quarantine on Arrival: 10 days on arrival in a government-approved managed quarantine hotel at their own expense if the passenger has travelled to or transited through any of the Red List Countries in the past 10 days.

      Passengers will only be permitted to enter the UK via London Heathrow Airport (LHR), London City Airport (LCY), London Gatwick Airport (LGW), Birmingham Airport (BHX), Belfast City Airport (BHD), Bristol Airport (BRS), Edinburgh Airport (EDI), Aberdeen Dyce Airport (ABZ), Glasgow International Airport (GLA), Farnborough Airport (FAB) or London Biggin Hill Airport (BQH):

      Passengers must have booked the quarantine package prior to arrival. The quarantine package will include the managed quarantine hotel, quarantine transport and the travel test package for Covid-19 tests on day 2 and day 8 of quarantine. Passengers who face financial hardship as a result of the quarantine costs may be able to apply for a deferred repayment plan when booking. Passengers who have not arranged a quarantine package prior to arrival may be fined up to £4000 and will still have to pay for the quarantine package on arrival. Passengers that break the quarantine rules may be fined up to £10,000.

      The requirement of quarantine in a government-approved managed quarantine hotel does not apply to unaccompanied children aged 17 years and younger who have travelled to or transited through the above countries, provided they are travelling to England to attend a boarding school. These students must still quarantine in accommodation arranged by boarding school, and can only enter the UK via London Heathrow Airport (LHR), London City Airport (LCY) or Birmingham Airport (BHX). Students must hold a copy of the letter from the Department for Education to the school confirming these students are covered by the exception, and a letter from the school to the student showing the requirements are met.

      The following passengers will not be required to quarantine:

      Defence personnel, visiting forces and government contractors, provided holding a letter from the Ministry of Defence;
      Officials and contractors performing essential border security duties, provided holding their official photo identification;
      International escorts undertaking extradition work;
      Crown servants or government contractors, provided holding a letter from the relevant department of the UK government;
      Members of diplomatic missions and consular posts in the UK, representatives of international organisations or representatives at an international or UK conference, and their families or dependant, will not be required to quarantine in a hotel but must quarantine in private accommodation on arrival;
      Representatives of a foreign country or territory or British overseas territories, provided travelling for official business that cannot be undertaken while in quarantine and holding a letter from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). Family members or other dependants travelling with the passenger must quarantine in private accommodation on arrival;
      Crew members, if they live in the UK they do not need to quarantine, however if they live overseas then they must self-isolate in their accommodation while in England, except while they are undertaking the exempt activity or travelling as part of their work;
      Seamen and masters and inspectors and surveyors of ships, if they live in the UK they do not need to quarantine, however if they live overseas then they must self-isolate in their accommodation while in England, except while they are undertaking the exempt activity or travelling as part of their work;
      Transit passengers who will not enter the United Kingdom; or
      Medical staff employed by NHS and passengers transporting human cells or blood.
      Covid-19 Information: Passengers who have the status ‘red’ in their Passenger Locator Form and have booked Managed Quarantine Service are required to follow ‘red list arrivals’ signage after disembarking the aircraft at London Heathrow Airport (LHR).

  2. I have tried to communicate with travelstart to cancel my ticket with booking reference ZA08250043. But they are not communicating with me. I think these are FRAUDSTERS with a website that looks legit but it is all A SCAM.

    • Hi Doreen,

      Thanks for reaching out and taking the time to voice your concerns regarding your recent experience with Travelstart. I am sorry to hear you are not pleased with the level of assistance you have received and apologise for any frustration caused.

      Looking at the history of your booking I see we have been in contact with you responding to your social queries as well as our refunds team have been in touch via email.

      We will give you a call shortly to address any other concerns or booking queries you might have.

  3. Hi there I booked flights from South Africa to Dubai Return in January 2020 to fly in August with Travel Start – I tried utilising my tickets now for December and Travel Start is charging me so much. I can’t understand why according to Emirates latest Circular if a ticket was booked before September 2020 and if the regions remained the same the fare is waved. Can you please advise it is so stressful I opted to use Travel Start to support a South African company . The service hasn’t been all that great.

    • Hi Mahnaaz,

      Thanks for reaching out.

      I’ve called up your booking ZA07840630 and see the quote emailed on the 18th October for a change (re-route).

      As the origin was of the ticket was changed penalties would apply. As the original ticket was OR Tambo – Dubai – OR Tambo and the quote was for a re-route: Dubai – OR Tambo – Dubai.

      I see our amendments team have responded to your email this morning. Please respond to our amendments team direct at: bookings@travelstart.com so they can assist accordingly. For any further amendment queries you are welcome to reach out to the team on the email address provided. We have a team managing that inbox 7 days a week.

      Hi there,

      Thank you for your request regarding the change to your booking.

      May you kindly advise from where to where are you looking to travel as we noticed the previous requests shows you wanted to travel vice versa the original ticket.

      We hope to hear from you soon.

      Kind Regards


  4. I literally had lot of traveling plans but due to covid actually everything got effed up now am literally thinking of starting travelling back and travel the word hope this covid things get over asap…

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