A Lockdown Sceptics reader has written to tell us about the extraordinary cost and inconvenience his partner had to go to just to fly to Prague to visit her frail mother.
My partner is from Prague and needed to travel home last week in time to see her mother who is very frail, has had multiple strokes and is now going for quite a complex operation. She wanted to make sure she saw her before the potential issue got out of hand (or there were complications in the hospital). So last Monday I managed to book a flight to Prague.
It transpires there are no direct flights although at short notice I managed to book something with KLM via Amsterdam. Having taken my payment, an hour later they sent a message saying that they required not only a PCR test within 72 hours of flight, but also a rapid test at the airport within three hours of flight or so.
Having investigated, it looked like Boots was the best place to get a PCR test, although you have to use two separate portals to book one. It cost £120 and the test results only turned up by email about 12 hours before my partner was due to take off. It was an email showing a “certificate” which could be printed off.
To get the rapid test, we had to use a company called Collinson at City airport, where she was flying from. It seemed to have only been recently set up and may be part of another group involved in test and trace but I cannot be sure. This test cost £80.
Passengers were not allowed to enter the airport (even though it was completely empty) unless they could prove that they already had a test booked with Collinson. Chairs were all removed meaning everybody had to stand outside until they were called for their test. Once the test has been completed, they email you the results but they refuse to print anything off, meaning in some cases this can cause a problem with some airlines if you are unable to show something “physical” at the gate. And to come back into the UK she has to do it all again at similar cost.
Overall this makes a flight that would normally cost £150 approximately £600 just for a quick jump to a European city. This may change, but I don’t think the idea that they want rapid tests at the airport is going to go away anytime soon, making it completely price prohibitive for anybody on a normal wage to travel, especially with children over 12 who are required to have a test as well.
On top of it all, even though everybody on the same flight must have been negative for COVID-19, they all still had to wear a mask. What sort of lunacy is that? Either they are safe to fly since they had the two tests or they are not.
As a side note, since it was a nice day I decided to take a drive along the river from City airport and randomly arrived (I promise) at the Excel Centre being used as a Nightingale Hospital. It looked completely deserted so I decided to drive around the perimeter.
Apart from one security guard who told me that it was “very quiet today” I saw nobody else. I’m not sure if it is officially “in use” currently, but apart from a few signs directing people to “have your vaccination here” I didn’t see anything and it looked completely dead.
Lastly, having just written this it transpires that KLM have cancelled all their flights from Amsterdam to London so I had to scramble to get my partner on a flight with Air France via Paris. Once again there seems no logic to it at all.