Travelling amid a pandemic between London and Zagreb


Written by Marko Š.

Airline: British Airways
Route: London - Zagreb - London
Date: 4th September - 6th September 2020

This trip was supposed to happen earlier this year, probably in spring, but because of well-known reasons, I couldn’t take it before. Basically, I had to come back to Zagreb to deal with some usual Balkan bureaucratic stuff that isn’t possible to solve remotely - online.

Originally, I found a very cheap ticket for 6th to 8th September for £85 via British Airways, but the tickets were purchased separately since they were cheaper than a roundtrip. Usually, I wouldn’t risk buying tickets separately, but this time I was testing my luck.

They were purchased late July and just a few weeks later, I got an e-mail from British Airways notifying me that my return flight was cancelled and that they automatically rescheduled me to the same day, but an earlier flight, because at the time British planned to run double daily service on certain days of the week. That was all fine, so I didn’t give it time of day, just to receive another email several weeks later that that flight was also cancelled and I was given an option to decide whether I’d like a refund in a form of a voucher or get the full refund or if I’d like to reschedule on my own at no additional charge.

When I looked for available flights, it turned out the only available ones were one a day earlier and one two days later. Since I didn’t have any other plans in Zagreb besides the one I was travelling for, I decide to take the flight day prior, which would mean I’d arrive at Zagreb on Sunday and would be returning the next day, early afternoon.

Come late August just to find out that British Airways is cancelling all of its flights to Zagreb for September, starting from the 7th, which was the day of my return flight. That’s where the problems occurred since I bought the tickets separately, which meant I could only get the refund for the return flight, but not for the outbound one since that one was scheduled to run normally.

I got on the phone to ring customer service to see what could be done and while waiting on the line, I wanted to check how much would it cost me if I would push both flights early. Several clicks later and it came down to an additional £11 for the change. I hung up the phone, confirmed the change and hoped that in the next week they wouldn’t make my life even more miserable by cancelling even those. The new trip was scheduled for Friday 4th September to Sunday 6th September, which would be the last BA flight out of Zagreb until October.

Luckily, there were no more changes and I was on my way to Heathrow Terminal 5 with the Tube. The Heathrow’s Terminal 5 was pretty busy but knowing that only Terminal 2 and 5 were operational at the time, that wasn’t much of a surprise. As much as I could see, people were obeying the new rules inside the Terminal with wearing face coverings, including airport staff. The security was a bit of a nightmare, at least in my line, where probably 8 out of 10 bags had to go through additional check after going through the X-ray, including mine and only because I placed a backpack on top of the tablet. It took me around 45 minutes to go through the whole security. Lesson learned.

The gate for our Zagreb flight was at A10e and we were bussed to our plane. The boarding was done by sections, but since the flight was around 50-60% full, only two buses were used.

We were handed a small bag with a pouch of a sanitising gel and an antibacterial wipe on the entrance of the plane. The interior seemed refurbished or maybe it was a newer aircraft since it looked quite new and/or well maintained. I was seated on 15F and I was the only one in the whole row, which made it so much more comfortable because of my long legs.

We took off a bit ahead of our schedule and after 30 minutes or so, the cabin crew, which had their face coverings just like the passengers, handed us a plastic bag with Tyrrell’s crisps, two cookies and a 220ml bottle of water. I also asked if I could get coffee with milk, which was brought to me after they finished handing out the snacks for all the passengers.

The flight was pleasant, and it took us around two hours to reach Zagreb.

Once we deplaned and reached immigration, we ran into quite a long line. I think there were several flights that arrived in the span of 30 minutes or so. Took me around 20 minutes to go through immigration and head out to meet my Uber.

The return flight was a bit different from the outbound one, even though they used the A319 as well. Zagreb Airport at first was quite empty after the passport control, but after some time it started filling up and I didn’t have any idea how many people will be on my flight.

Since my seat was 21C, I was among the first round of passengers to board and after I was seated, I realised that there will be more people than on my flight two days earlier. In the end, it turned out that the flight was almost full. I saw a couple of empty easts around me.

The service was the same as on the outbound flight and we departed on time, which means we arrived at Heathrow some 20 minutes earlier, but even that didn’t help me and I got stuck at immigration, because the eGates didn’t work with my passport once again. That means one needs to go through the line to see the officer in the booth. There were two of them and after several minutes, one of them left the post, leaving all of us with only one for the next 15 minutes until another officer arrived. We weren’t pleased, to say the least. But once it was my turn, it took 20 seconds to check my passport, compare my face with the photo and check the form on my phone regarding the self-isolation that I had to fill out online prior the flight.

All in all, besides the people wearing face coverings, everything else seemed as usual and more or less normal. British Airways is like most legacy airlines and I like flying with them, mostly because their fares are often so much cheaper than with Croatia Airlines. Hopefully, they will return to Zagreb with a somewhat normal schedule next month.

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  1. Anonymous09:28

    Nice report. Is the meal the same you would get under normal circumstances?

    1. Actually, as much as I can recall, no. I don't think you get anything for free, besides maybe water.

    2. Anonymous12:07

      True that's a positive development :D in order to minimise contact they give it for free. But it's nice of them. They could have gone the other way and not given anything.

    3. Anonymous23:02

      Or maybe it's simply because they realised that the food is getting close to expiration date, due to far lower passenger numbers, and they figure out that it's better to give it away then to throw it away.

  2. Anonymous12:10

    Very nice pic of the ZAG terminal. Good report.

  3. Anonymous07:22

    Nice trip report, shame there weren't more pictures of the crew, cabin, plane, view from the window...


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