17 May 6am, TOM 2102 to Funchal is the very first flight from Manchester on the very first day of freedom to travel to green code countries, and Liz and I are on it. The last two weeks have been a real rollercoaster of “it’s on”, “it’s off” and “it’s on again” with Portugal, Boris and Brussels all dithering about letting us go, but I’m delighted that in the end the go has been given and should not be an issue for the foreseeable future.
We’re both in our seventies, had both jabs, and thought long and hard about whether we should risk it or not, but in the end decided that we felt we would be in no worse a situation than shopping in Waitrose and braving a meal in an English restaurant this week if we decided to stay at home.
We had all the required paperwork and check-in was as easy as normal at Manchester, where they had well organised Covid Safe queuing and about 10 check-in desks open. The staff all knew what they were doing and we only had to queue for about 10 minutes. The security was quiet and also Covid Safe, and plenty of aisles running and we were straight through there too.
The departure lounge was not crowded and everyone was wearing masks (and being reminded every five minutes to do so), and the only slight discomfort was the gate area which was much the same as usual with no extra Covid spacing. The plane was nearly full, and both in the departure gate and on the flight it was comforting to know that everyone there had to have been Covid tested within the previous 72 hours! Regrettably, once boarded, we were unlucky to have a fault on the plane that delayed us for 90 minutes, but then we were on our way and cares started to slip away with the clouds as the plane rose into the sunshine above.
Madeira airport arrivals was brilliant. There was no problem at a well spaced passport control. Everyone still wearing masks and keeping distance as we collected luggage and then out into the arrivals hall where everyone had their Covid Certification checked and our registration on Madeira Safe enabled us to get straight through.
Blandy’s minibus was waiting for us, and within an hour of landing we were registering at Porto Mare (Residence registration desk is re-opening soon we understand) and pretty soon having a beer and lunch at the pool bar.
It’s fabulous being here again, and we feel as safe if not safer here than in some places in England. Happy hour and Ponchas, cloudless skies and Madeiran friendliness are all still operating.
If you have made up your mind that you feel the same way but are worried about all the logistics, then I am delighted to say that it all worked smoothly for us and here are some pointers for you.
Firstly, you do need to get your documents in order. If you need a Covid test, TUI have a package deal and if you’re flying with them I would think that’s a sensible choice as that leaves the responsibility for being right in their court. Unfortunately we live nowhere close to one of their testing centres so I chose Boots, who do the tests in most big towns and cities round the country. We arranged ours for 12 noon on the Friday before our Monday flight, thinking that would give us time to find another place to get it redone if things went wrong. We need not have worried. The tests were done very professionally, and the results mailed to us by 9am Saturday morning. You need to book online separately for each traveller and upload your passport details to get test centre codes, and then make an appointment at your local branch to get the tests done. You should start getting all this sorted out a few days before you need the test - don’t leave it until the last minute. Whoever you choose, you’ll need to get copies of the Test Certificate emailed to you by the Saturday, or latest early Sunday before you fly on Monday and have both paper printouts and copies on your phone ready to show when needed.
Next you need to register all of your travel details and attach a copy of your Covid Test Certificate on Madeira Safe. You also need to have checked in online and have your flight and seat allocation details to hand. You need to do this between 48h and 12h before your flight and you will need to upload a copy of your Test certificate there. There is also a Madeirasafe app available on Android an IPhone. Have paper copies of everything with you, and take a screenshot of your QR code from the Madeirasafe app so you can show that on arrival in Madeira.
Have a great holiday.
Peter and Liz Gardner