Travelling amid a pandemic from Brussels to Zagreb

TRIP REPORT | INDEX


Written by Fran Kauzlaric

Airline / Flight: Croatia Airlines / OU 4457
Departure / Arrival: Brussels to Zagreb
Aircraft: Bombardier Dash 8 Q400

Normally, Croatia Airlines flies this route twice daily most days, but at the moment it’s operating a reduced schedule, increasing frequency over the coming weeks. The flight was completely full, something other airlines on short-haul routes in Europe are reporting as well, likely due to scarcity of flights operating at the moment.

BOOKING

I booked using a voucher from a previously cancelled flight a few weeks ago. The good news is you can change your flight for free for all tickets on Croatia Airlines as long as you make the booking up until June 30 and are taking the original flight up until October. They have unlimited amount of changes, but if there is a fare difference, you have to pay. Also, if paying by voucher, you can combine multiple vouchers in your name if the ticket price is higher than the single voucher amount. Similarly, if the ticket price is lower than your voucher amount, you will get issued a new voucher, valid for a year from date of issuance

The bad news is that if paying by a voucher from a previously cancelled flight, you have to call Croatia Airlines and book - you can’t use the online booking. They waive the usual telephone booking fee so that’s a silver lining.

CHECK-IN

I used online check-in which opened 24 hours before departure. That way I could avoid going to the check-in counters at the airport - although all the check-in counters now have plexiglass windows to protect both passengers and staff. BRU also has self-bag drop counters - so that’s an option too for those travelling with check-in bags. I traveled with hand luggage only - cheating a bit as I had a wheelie, a rucksack and a tote bag. I did this as I know Croatia Airlines asks all passengers on flights operated by Dash to leave the wheelie before boarding the aircraft, and you pick it up upon landing. Note that self-check in machines at the airport currently aren't operational as multiple passengers would be touching the same screen...

TRAVEL TO AIRPORT

I took a train from Brussels Schuman which has 2 direct trains per hour to BRU, 9 euro one-way, 15 minutes travel time. I have a season ticket, but you can buy tickets on your phone, with no need to print or touch anything else. I took a train that got me to the airport about 1:45 before departures, as I wanted to buy some chocs, check out the terminal a bit and have coffee with a friend. The station was nearly empty; the train, too – with only a few passengers on board. All passengers in Belgium have to wear a mask in stations and on trains - and the same applies to the terminal building at the airport.




DEPARTURES HALL

When I got to BRU, and headed up to the departures hall, I was directed to walk through a temperature scanner. Only passengers are allowed into the departures hall, so a member of staff checked my boarding pass which I showed from my phone. All staff members at the airport wear masks, which are also mandatory for all passengers. Apart from showing my boarding pass, walking through the 'scanner' was literally just walking past a thermal camera, which looks like a normal camera – no pausing or stopping. There was a little ‘doctor’s office’ next door. Passengers with temperature of 38 C or above have a chat with the doctor to see if they are cleared to fly.



In addition to sinks placed across the Terminal - an interesting new addition are people-counting screens outside the toilets making sure there aren't too many people inside at any one point in time. Hand-sanitizers are everywhere.





SECURITY

BRU has one really big screening hall – and it’s crazy to see it this empty. There were only about 5 passengers in front of me. Based on language, they were heading to Ankara on SunExpress - the only other flight due to depart on that evening. At security, there is an 'empty' tray slot in between two people making distancing easier.




AT GATE + BOARDING

A mix of Croatian expats, a few MEPs and a few Belgians with their Enter Croatia forms (all foreigners entering Croatia these days should register here ahead of travel to save time upon entry). Ample seating space meant people were nicely spread out and the boarding was simple, efficient and on-time.


IN-FLIGHT

Short 2-hr flight on a full Dash 8 was uneventful. Instead of the usual snack Croatia Airlines gives out (olives & cheese) with complimentary drinks service, new measures meant we only got a bottle of water and a form to fill in for Croatian authorities to be able to get in touch if needed. Kudos on giving out sanitizing wipes to everyone upon entry, as well as pens together with the forms as well - it meant people didn't need to borrow from each other. Throughout the flight, the masks are mandatory and everyone on the plane were wearing them.



ARRIVAL

On-time arrival to Zagreb's new terminal was at a remote gate. We boarded a bus to take us to terminal - and this was the only point at the whole journey where I would have preferred an alternative, either to walk to the terminal (as we were close) or to have two buses. It was quite a packed bus, but only a few minutes ride.



Final thoughts

Overall a very smooth trip. Yes - being stuck in an enclosed space with other people makes you think about your health these days – but I felt safer than I did at a nice Italian restaurant in central Brussels last week. Why? People are more aware and more careful when travelling these days. The waiter at my Italian took off his mask when I couldn’t understand him and started explaining the menu to me at a distance way below the recommended 1.5m. Other guests obviously didn’t wear masks, as… erm… they were eating. And after a few drinks I also got careless and relaxed.

On the other hand – everyone was careful on the flight. Everyone disinfected their hands enough times to need a tube of hand moisturizer after. The staff were professional – and so were the passengers.

So – my two cents: I felt safer flying to Croatia than going for dinner. That’s not to say there are no risks – it just means travelling is not all doom and gloom as one might think from reading the news these days. Happy and safe travels, everyone!


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Comments

  1. Anonymous09:19

    Nice detailed report. Thanks. I hope they do bring back the snack boxes in the future.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sorry, when you say flight was full, was the Dash filled at capacity, or were seats blocked due to social distancing?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The Dash was filled at capacity. No seats were blocked and there are no social distancing requirements when seated and no blocked seats in the aircraft. Pax and crew are obliged to wear masks.

      Delete
    2. Thanks, "reassuring" :)
      Wonder why they don't send the 'buses to the likes of FRA and BRU, if they are indeed fully booked.

      Delete

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