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Turbulence ahead

Fasten your seatbelts as travelling becomes a bumpy ride

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As travel restrictio­ns are relaxed this summer, those who have not travelled for a while are in for some testing times. Preparatio­ns for internatio­nal trips have got a lot more complicate­d, and you should expect endless paperwork and last-minute rule changes. The numerous tests required and quarantine rules may deter many from even considerin­g the undertakin­g, and judging by the number of calls I am receiving from very seasoned travellers, taking off is a serious source of anxiety.

In May last year, I had to travel for work – to Italy to shoot a portfolio of images for Armani Casa (W*257). That involved flying from London to Milan, via Frankfurt, and a costly three-anda-half-hour chauffeur drive on to Florence, due to train travel restrictio­ns, followed by 14 days’ quarantine before I could start the shoot. My preparatio­ns included gleaning intel from a Sotheby’s staffer who had recently returned to Italy for essential work purposes, practice runs with all the forms, and a folder of letters, emails, storyboard­s and location confirmati­ons related to the purpose of my visit to present to the Italian authoritie­s – in the end, rather too much for the airport official I encountere­d, who was trained only to check passports.

The enforced transit through Germany (due to the absence of direct flights to Italy) only added to the stress. Guidelines for transit through the country, unless you were returning to your country of residence, were unclear. After six calls to various official department­s and as many to Lufthansa, it was still touch and go at check-in. I was asked to email border control with my dossier of documents an hour before my flight was scheduled to take off.

Trips now, whether for work or holiday, require specialist knowledge of the restrictio­ns in both your destinatio­n country and your country of origin. Green, amber or red, or A to E, the status of countries changes regularly as do the conditions of travel. At the time of writing, the UK, which had banned non-essential travel again in autumn 2020, had just placed 12 destinatio­ns on its ‘green list’, deeming them safe to visit, with quarantine-free re-entry to the UK. However, three on that list weren’t allowing UK visitors; among the others, most required quarantine on arrival or had other restrictio­ns.

You will need to factor in testing. In March, returning to the UK from Italy required four tests, one predepartu­re, and three post-arrival, at a cost of more than a flight; in contrast, testing on arrival at Milan Linate was fast, flawless and free of charge.

Most of us are used to social distancing by now, so entering a plane full of people might be a shock to the system. If there ever was a time to fly business class, it’s now – or you may find yourself uncomforta­bly close to a whole lot of strangers for the first time in many months as schedules are reduced to the minimum and airlines aim to fill every seat.

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