From empty airports last year to understaffed heaving airports this year, taking a trip is becoming another nightmare. I had to make a dash back to the UK a couple of weeks ago for an urgent family matter, with little time to plan and in the middle of my most busiest season of holiday rentals I’ve ever had, travel has opened up finally and thankfully not marred by testing, vaccine passports or any of that rubbish we had to go through last year. However, finding the information on what is now not required is a little sketchy. The last time I flew back to the UK was in November, and to get in required a passenger locator form and a negative test. The airline staff won’t let you board the plane without them. During 2020 and 2021 I travelled a lot and airline staff were like the Gestapo. Needless to say, being unvaccinated hasn’t stopped me from going anywhere unlike the number of guests I have had stay in my rentals who went and got the shot to be ensured that they could continue to travel!
Madeira had only just dropped the mask mandate a week or so before I left. The EU that same week announced that all airlines and airports in Europe had also dropped their mask mandates as well. Travel was well and truly open and to everybody. Some countries still require a test, but both Madeira and the UK do not, or the passenger locator form. But the day before I left, our dictator announced that masks were still required to be worn at the airport, as do taxi drivers and on public transport. So when I arrived there, and passed the massive signs telling you at the doors that masks were mandatory inside, I decided to flout their rules and walked into the airport without it. I was pleased to see that I was not the only one!
The check in queue was enormously long, I had arrived early to avoid it, like everyone else and observed the area around me, which had a mixture of masked, unmasked and partially masked passengers. When it was my turn to check in, the lady at the desk was gruff and rude and immediately told me off, demanding that I put on my mask right there and then as she bellowed the mandatory rule to wear it in there. I said ok, took my ticket and walked off toward departures muttering under my breath. Did she not understand that we are in Europe and the mandate in airports and airplanes had been dropped? I could not be bothered to argue and hold up the long queue behind me. I was still breathing airport air.
The queues into the hand baggage scanning area were long too and quite a few of the crowd were unmasked like me. The ones who complied didn’t seem at all bothered about the ones that didn’t nor take any extra precautions to socially distance. As I inched closer to the scanning area, there were a group of around five 20 somethings that were unmasked and as they began to empty their chattels into the trays a hefty looking uniformed bloke appeared and screamed at them to put on their masks. He refused to let them continue with their stuff as an argument broke out. One of the group put a mask on and tried to placate the others, with one of the women scrummaging her bag on the floor arguing with the officer whilst looking for hers. The man who declared he didn’t own one, was sent packing -back through security and into the main airport to go buy one, he was told he would not be travelling unless he did. The scene was embarrassing for them as they were treated like dirt by the staff and I was angry as hell that anyone had the right to speak to people the way that man did. It shook up the rest of the queue as now this display had scared the shit out of everyone else and all of a sudden everyone in the queue was adorning a mask!
I reluctantly pulled out my (mesh) one and wore it on my chin. And when I was picked to go to the same scanning line as the scalded group, I smiled at the officer and continued to proceed with dumping my computer and bits in the tray. It was quite comical as I had mine on, but not over my face and I noticed others copying me after I went through unscathed! And it stayed on my chin right up until I boarded the plane.
As I got on the plane, I noticed one steward wearing the nappy and another without, so I asked if we had to wear them on the flight. The stewardess beamed at me with a massive smile as she said this was a mask free flight, but feel free to wear it if you so desire. I saw about 3 people on that plane that did.
Returning home last week was also eventful from the moment I arrived at Gatwick. The airport was heaving, queues were long but no gestapo about ordering people to mask up. My flight was delayed due to staff shortages for the flight I was on and baggage handler problems. But getting onto the return flight back to Madeira was marred by the fact that this flight (same airline) was a mandatory mask flight with their excuse that as we were flying to Madeira where the law required mask wearing on Public transport, they were classed as Public transport. I got into an argument with the stewardess but had to cave in to wearing it on my chin again. And throughout that flight the majority of the passengers were like me, wearing them as chin hammocks and the staff didn’t bat an eyelash. It seems that as long as it was on our face, somewhere there at least, we were complying with the ridiculous rules!
Back on Madeira soil and the gestapo were once again on the tarmac as we exited the plane barking at people to wear them, even though we were outside. This entire subject of wearing them in the airport whether arriving or leaving is illogical to me, particularly when you can go about your business in public everywhere else with out one. And the people that insist on your compliance are nasty, rude and have become mini Hitlers with huge God complexes. I would love to know if they are fanatical about wearing theirs in public even where they don’t have to or if their narcissism of doing their job gives them a power rush.
My rental business has gone nuts these last couple of months as people are coming in their droves to Madeira for their holidays. I’m not complaining after 2 years of bugger all business and paying bills on empty properties for all that time. There have been problems to face this end with the flood of tourists as many are finding it impossible to hire a car or the prices 3 to 4 times what they were to hire before. Hotels and restaurants are crying out for new employees as they are hit by staff shortages. My taxi driver friends are looking knackered with the longer hours and increased business and the local news are showing popular tourist hot spots overwhelmed with traffic, coaches, queues with parking a major problem. Our famous levada walks known for spectacular scenery deep into the untouched areas of the island are also heaving with hikers making some of the trails more dangerous to pass on. And again I am not moaning about it, I am pleased to see this as we need our tourism and its good to see businesses opening back up and thriving with this sudden onslaught of trade.
But, for me, I am worried. I am worried that this is a bubble that will burst and when it does, we will fall back to where we were last year – or even worse. With fuel prices continually rising by the week, so are the costs in flights. Already the airlines are cancelling flights during their busiest time of the year as they blame staff shortages. Easy jet this week cancelled 120 of them through half term. I just had a message from a guest who is arriving next week from Holland warning me, that their flight might be cancelled and will keep me posted. If their flight is cancelled, they get their refund and I get the week blocked from my calendar with no chance of renting it to anyone else. I earn nothing and have no one to claim compensation from!
And as inflation rises, everywhere. When will it reach a point where going on holiday is unachievable because of the rising costs of energy, and food. As we get the summer buzz out of the way and the cooler months start to approach many will take stock of their finances as they brace the hurdle of getting through the winter. Not to mention the rumble that governments are already talking about Covid rearing its ugly head again as we head toward the colder months with the threat looming that action will have to be taken yet again to inhibit the spread of the virus that hasn’t gone away! But for the most part it seems that this is going to be a belter of a summer in business terms for tourism, as long as the airlines can hold it together. But by Autumn I personally think we will be heading toward a disaster when the shit will truly hit the fan. Once people have had their one or two weeks of freedom and experiencing that holiday vibe, returning home will come with a bigger thump of reality than it did before. The world is in a real crisis, so a bit of escapism for a brief week or two can be forgiven…but never take your eye off the ‘Global Elites’ because whilst everyone is concentrating on their tans, they are busy having their meetings conjuring up the next disaster to continue with the dismantling of the life we once knew and taking us into the next phase of the ‘new world order’.