Norwich Airport boss calls for quarantine to be scrapped as first KLM flight takes off
- Credit: Copyright: Archant 2020
The head of Norwich Airport hailed KLM’s first flight to Amsterdam after lockdown as a ‘massive vote of confidence.’
But Richard Pace called for the government to review its quarantining procedure in places like Spain, urging for people to be tested for coronavirus on arrival from those destinations instead. And he said he’d work with the government on measures to make air travel as safe as possible.
He was speaking as Dutch airline KLM resumed its flights from Norwich after four months of lockdown. The first flight leaving at 9.25am saw 52 passengers and two babies on board out of 88 available seats. Four people who’d booked the flight didn’t turn up.
Richard Pace, Norwich Airport managing director, said: “This airport is a key economic driver to the region and it’s a massive vote of confidence that we are operating again for business and leisure. It’s a fantastic day for the airport. We are giving customers choice of flying via Schiphol to anywhere in the world.
”It’s been very challenging and a lot of work has been done to give people the confidence to travel again today. We’d like to see the government review quarantine procedures, which don’t currently affect Amsterdam, and test people on arrival instead, we’d work with the government behind the scenes to try and make the process as safe as possible.”
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Many staff at the airport checking in passengers and seeing them through in departures were back after beign furloughed for four months. Masks and visors were worn and social distancing measures in place throughout the airport. Flying the Embraer 75 aircraft into Norwich, was Dutch captain Tjeerd-Jan Links and second pilot Stephan Mulder. Captain Links, who’s been flying for 12 years, said: “It’s harder for the cabin crew, for us it’s easier as we are locked away at the front of the place and not fronting customers.” But Annelies Vos, heading up the cabin crew, said: “Passengers were nervous but we are happy to be flying again, as soon as people see us wearing face masks, they feel more confident that we are doing our very best to keep them safe.”
Joe Milan, his wife Jumi-Kim and their 15 month-old daughter Joan were flying from Amsterdam onto their home in Atlanta, US. Mr Milan, who’d been working for the UEA on a writing fellowship. said: “It’s essential we get back home, but there is never any level of complete certainty that flying is safe.”
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Stuart Whelan was travelling from hom in Norwich to visit friends. “I usually fly three times a year and the first opportunity I missed in March because of lockdown, I’m not especially nervous, if you were, you would lock yourself in your house and stay indoors.”
Sarah Playfair, a mum of a toddler, travelling onto Germany for a 10 day holiday from Schiphol, said she felt “very anxious.” “The grandparents haven’t seen my daughter since she was a really tiny baby, they are really desperate to see her and we are desperate to get out of the house, we are willing to take a risk because we don’t feel things are going to get back to normal any time soon, the science says babies have a better immunity and the cases in Norfolk are low.”
Adriana Sylwia, who’s Polish, was heading onto Krakow from Amsterdam after being stuck in Norwich during lockdown. She’d come over to teach vegetarian cooking. “It has been a wonderful adventure, unexpected, but I am looking forward to going home and taking a rest.”
Landing in Norwich on the plane was Steven Collier, who’d been working in Norway for 21 weeks. “The flight was very relaxed, it’s difficult to eat and drink when wearing a mask, and some people weren’t wearing them.”
KLM is operating a daily 50 minute flight and hopes to resume its three daily flights from Norwich by the end of October. Its last flight from Norwich was on March 27.