Last-minute British holidaymakers have embraced the “new normal” travel experience by heading to Ibiza on the first weekend of the relaxation of UK quarantine rules.
More than 500 sun-seekers travelling on flights from Manchester and London to the Spanish island on Saturday were among the first guests with TUI, the UK’s largest tour operator, which has restarted limited operations.
It follows amendments to the Government’s blanket travel quarantine rules, which mean people visiting or returning to the UK from certain countries, including Spain, no longer have to self-isolate for two weeks.
Katy De Freitas, 33, a pensions administrator from Surrey, booked her seven-day trip with her boyfriend on Friday night.
“The change to the quarantine basically made us rethink our holiday options,” she told the PA news agency.
“We were quite worried because a lot of our close friends or colleagues at work, they thought it was too risky to travel abroad and they didn’t think it was a good idea to make a rash decision and go away any time soon.”
But Ms De Freitas said the pressures of working from home during lockdown meant she needed “a change of scenery”.
“The very fact that they are allowing flights to run and they lifted the restrictions makes me think it’s OK,” she argued.
“We did have initial worries and we wanted to make sure we read the Government rules correctly and that we didn’t do anything wrong.”
On the newly running TUI flights, currently just to limited Spanish destinations, passengers are required to wear face masks, but gaps are not placed between seated customers.
However, some holidaymakers found that observing social distancing on the plane and at the hotel had at times been difficult.
“You’ve just got to have your wits about you and be as careful as you can,” said Graham Milne, 55, from Newcastle.
The taxi driver and grandfather added: “As for social distancing, I think sort of, on the plane, that goes out the window to be honest.
“You wear a mask when you are on the plane but you’ve just got to be careful and wash your hands as much as possible.”
Ms De Freitas said a queue for the toilet had formed on the plane next to her aisle seat, despite passengers being asked to avoid doing this.
But she added: “I didn’t feel worried about contracting the virus in that environment.”
Meanwhile, Mr Milne claimed it had been a “disgrace” that it took buses 45 minutes to collect disembarking passengers at the airport.
Olivia Lockie-Hardwick, an 18-year-old student from Preston, said of her flight: “There wasn’t a lot of social distancing really, but that was to be expected.”
Under new rules being imposed by the Balearic Government on Monday, face masks, already required in shops, will be mandatory in all public places on the islands – except on beaches, by pools and when doing sports.
Breaches could see people hit with a 100 euro (£90) fine.
Ms Lockie-Hardwick’s mother, Sharon Lockie, 48, a social worker, who booked their break just a week ago, said: “We are of the view that it’s got to move forward at some point and for us it’s safer in Spain that it is in Britain because you have to wear a mask out and about, whereas you don’t in Britain.”
Laying by a pool, she added: “You’ve got to live your lives and be sensible about it, and if you’re taking precautions while in Britain or here, that’s all you can do.”
Laura Berry, 30, from Devon, travelling with her husband, their two children and her brother and sister, said wearing a mask on the plane was “not a problem” but if it was longer haul “it would be a bit harder”.
She said social distancing would be “a bit tricky at times”, citing as an example the new crowd of new arrivals at their west coast hotel lobby.
Lee Peacock, 41, a gas engineer from Manchester, who had come away with his wife and three children, said he did not have health concerns.
“I don’t agree with the masks. I don’t think they do anything but I’ll wear them to help get the economy going again,” he said.
Commenting on arriving to a quieter than normal Ibiza, he added: “We knew the super clubs weren’t going to be open and it wouldn’t be quite the same, but as long as the kids are happy…”
Ms Berry, who booked her holiday as soon as she heard quarantine rules were changing, said: “I think you’ve got to have a bit of normality in life, it’s like the new normal – it could be like this in a year’s time.”