Derek Mooney: To Spain And Back


Derek Mooney (above) returning home to Dublin from Alicante, Spain

Amid the anger and confusion over air-travel restrictions, plus stories of people arriving at Dublin Airport and avoiding quarantine, I have chronicled my largely positive experiences of travelling by flight just under two weeks ago.

Only one part of my trip made me feel uneasy and that was my arrival back in Dublin.

At the end of June, I traveled to Alicante, Spain for a short return trip to visit my mother. My Parents moved to Spain in late 1999. My father died in 2011 and my mother decided to continue living in Spain.

I usually try to get over to visit her for a few days every two months, or so. My last such visit was in early February. I was then planning to visit in late April/early May, but the Covid19 restriction knocked those plans on the head.

I resolved to try to visit her as soon as travel quarantine* restrictions were lifted in Spain as staying there for 14 days would have been impractical. As I work from home I felt I could cope relatively easily with the 14 day quarantine on the Dublin return leg.

Fortunately, the Spanish government lifted the 14 days quarantine restrictions in late June. From that point on  people arriving in Spain were required to complete a detailed contact tracing form giving their country of origin and register an address at which they would be staying during their visit so Spanish health officials could trace them, if necessary.

It also asked several health questions, including listing any contact over the previous 14 days with persons who had contracted Covid-19. They also required those arriving to undergo a temperature check/scan.

So, as I near the end of my 14-day post trip quarantine, here is a brief description of my experiences of both departures and arrivals at both Dublin and Alicante airports.

Departing Dublin Airport.

It was an early morning flight. Arriving at T2, I was booked on an Aer Lingus flight and was greeted by an airport staff member who urged me to use the hand sanitizer and reminded me that masks/face coverings must be worn at all times inside the Terminal.

The security area was not busy, but there were clear markings on the ground to show you the 2M social distancing required on the queue. I had checked in online so I scanned the bar code at the security check and went through to the scanners to check my hand luggage etc.

No issues here. All staff were wearing masks and gloves and very organised. Again there were plenty of hand sanitisers. (Up to my February trip I had a near 100% record of always being randomly selected for the added drug swab test – so I was shocked when I wasn’t picked this time).

I went direct to the departures gate. The seats were clearly marked to ensure social distancing. Aer Lingus commenced boarding early and called passengers by seat rows (4/5 rows at a time). The flight was approx. 70% full, mainly family groups and couples. Everyone had masks. The staff were very attentive and professional. They handed out the detailed 2-page Spanish contact tracing form.

Boarding was calm and socially distanced. The flight was relaxed. Disembarkation at Alicante was just as calm and well managed with passengers cooperating with both staff and each other.

Arrival at Alicante.

Upon arriving I saw that Alicante airport officials had changed the arrivals layout to allow plenty of space for passengers to socially distance (1.5m in Spain as opposed to 2m in Ireland) when going through passport check. Once you were past passport control you went down the escalator to the baggage hall, there you found two identical channels set up by the local health authority.

In each channel were local officials (who also spoke English) who wear wearing face coverings/visors. They collected and checked through your contact tracing form to see if you had ticked that you had contact with anyone with Covid-19 or were exhibiting symptoms, runny nose, persistent cough.

You then went along the channel to the temperature check/scan area – this was done at a distance. When the official was satisfied that you were not muy caliente, you were waved through and then collected your bags and left.

Security guards in the arrivals halls kept people moving and exiting the building – there were hand sanitizer stations everywhere across the airport.

Departing Alicante Airport.

As with Dublin Airport there were airport security guards at each entrance to the departure area. They told passengers to use the hand sanitizer and to wear face masks/coverings at all times.

The security area was a bit busier than in Dublin. There were clear markings on the ground to show you the 1.5M social distancing required on the queue. All staff were wearing masks and gloves and monitored the queue. Again there were plenty of hand sanitisers. Passed through the security check with minimal fuss or problem.

Though there were some cafes open I went direct to my departure gate. As with Dublin the seats were clearly marked to ensure social distancing. As it turned out there was no issue with boarding, which was done via steps and not a jetbridge, as there were just 9 passengers booked on the flight. Each of us wore masks. The flight staff were very attentive.

The flight crew were relaxed and professional. About 45 minutes before landing in Dublin they handed out the 1-page Irish Covid-19 contact form, albeit a very poorly photocopied version. Disembarkation at T2 was fine, it seemed ours was the only flight arriving around that time.

Arrival at Dublin.

This is the part of the trip that caused me concern. Not because anything happened or went wrong, but because there was nothing. You walked off the flight. Went to passport control. You handed the official there your passport/ID and the completed form. You lowered your mask so they could identify you… and that was it.

Yes there were hand sanitizers and some yellow and black HSE notices, but nothing else. No health officials. No temperature scans. Nothing. Though I had signed a document committing to self-quarantining, there was no question about how I was going to travel on from the airport (the answer by the way was bus and train!

There were notices in the T2 Arrivals hall that everything there was closed, including the bus stop and taxi rank, and so you should walk to T1.

On a side note, this was before the requirement to wear face coverings on public transport was made mandatory. While the four people who boarded the bus at Dublin Airport each wore masks, only 10% of those who boarded thereafter were wearing them. Curiously, that percentage rose to 75% on the Dart from Malahide to home.

These are my observations. While Dublin Airport T2 was well set up for those departing, that is not the case for arrivals.

Maybe it was a one-off experience. Maybe the fact that there were only 9 of us on the flight and no other flights arriving at that time meant it was not cost effective to have a HSE/health authority presence at the airport, but even so, the casual approach to those arriving on the day meant that this was the only leg of my short return journey during which I felt uneasy.

OK Rant over and so too (well, almost) is my self-isolation.

Derek Mooney is a communications and public affairs consultant.. Follow Derek on Twitter: @dsmooney


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40 thoughts on “Derek Mooney: To Spain And Back

  1. broadbag

    It’s just so half-bottomed you’d wonder how we’re not seeing hundreds of cases a day, or are there many with just a touch of a lighter strain of it wandering around?

    1. SOQ

      No it is the same virus- just different degrees of infection.

      The amount of the virus appears be a determining factor in if you get sick or not. A small viral load will reside in the nose and possibly upper respiratory tract where your body’s defenses will clear it. A large viral load however will most likely get into the lower part of the lungs and that is when the trouble starts because the body doesn’t know what it is.

      At least that is my layman’s understanding of what is now being proposed.

      This theory may also somewhat explain why there were outbreaks in certain regions as people were being infected with high viral loads.

          1. Brother Barnabas

            soq, did you not blithely dismiss the qualifications of a ‘mere GP’ to be talking about this issue quite recently ?

            or does it depend on whether you agree with the view being expounded ?

          2. SOQ

            Not sure- could you be more specific?

            Just on that point, maybe you could wind to the beginning of the interview where John clearly states that he is not a virologist.

          3. sidhe

            says a lot that you’ve thrown about so many links and ‘alternative’ sources, that you can’t remember most of them

            keep throwing poo against the wall and eventually some of it will stick

          4. SOQ

            Brother asked- did you not blithely dismiss the qualifications of a ‘mere GP’ to be talking about this issue quite recently?

            I said I don’t know and could he be more specific. Brother never responded.

            Now if you think that John Campbell is an ‘alternative’ source then you clearly have not watched the video. And besides, why be so nasty about it eh?

            EVERYONE is learning on the hoof about this thing where even official sources keep changing their minds- masks being a classic example.

    1. Charger Salmons

      I prefer ” another cerveza when you’re ready Manuel. ”
      They usually reply ” coming right up Major. ”
      At least I think that’s what they’re saying in Spanish.
      You never know with Johnny Foreigner.

      ( Look,it made me laugh okay ? )

  2. Micko

    My friends mother arrived from Poland the other day. Same thing. Fill in a form, and pop it in the box while a very uninterested member of staff sits there.

    No checks to see if the info is correct or anything.

    Not that I’d want there to be, as I think the whole thing is overblown, but if it’s that serious you think the Airport authority would be more engaged.

  3. Terry Walsh

    Here’s a wee Spanish lesson for all of ye:

    Hace calor – it (sc. the weather) is hot.
    (Yo) tengo calor – I feel/am (too) hot.
    La cacerola está caliente – The saucepan is hot (to the touch), but:
    Estoy caliente – I am hot (sc. sexually excited).

  4. Tom Wong

    Terrible fuppwittery in Dublin Airport last night

    No social distancing
    long line crowded on top of each other because airline and security couldn’t get it together to issue boarding passes (even though most people already had them on their phone) and people who had checked in were forced to queue with those who had a lot of luggage
    All piled on top of each other for several hours

    Airline checkin staff refused to get extra help
    Security refused to let people through with phone boarding passes – had to be paper ones
    Worst of all – airport management staff blamed airline and ignored passenger complaints about social distancing – even though the place was completely empty and the crowd could easily have been safely distanced

    As a man in the queue said it proved you did not need a high IQ to work in the airport
    Céad Míle Fáilte
    Have pictures if yous want

          1. sidhe

            now correct me if I’m wrong here but the usual reason for being in the airport is for travel. or work, I suppose

          2. Brother Barnabas

            man attends airport

            man describes issues he experienced in queue to obtain boarding pass

            man gives negative account of conduct of airline staff during checkin

            man takes umbrage at assumption he recently travelled by air

          3. Tom Wong

            Hi brother – and this is the last time I will give you the time of day, sir

            At no point above (read it again) did I say whether I was travelling, where I was travelling to, that I was looking for a boarding pass for myself etc.

            Had it not occurred to your tiny little hive mind that I may have been accompanying a vulnerable person to the departure gate, who was going on an essential journey, and seeing them off safely? Try harder buddy

          4. Cian

            You’re deflecting. You haven’t said why you were in the airport.

            Yes, you may have been accompanying someone else.. equally you may have been going off on a little holiday.

            How about a direct answer: Were you travelling from the airport?

          5. Tom Wong

            How about you lie down there Cian?
            Way to go on failing to address the issue
            Why don’t you say whether you or family members work at the airport? It would appear you have the essential requirements for the role.

        1. SOQ

          I find it hard to take people seriously who complain about airports not being up to scratch when they are on a jolly is all.

          We get lectured about not wearing masks when by far the most socially responsible thing to do is- to stay at home.

          1. One username please TW

            So the real issue here is not the apparent lack of control, organisation or social distancing?

          2. SOQ

            The real issue is people not accepting responsibility for spreading the virus because a bloody holiday is more important.

          3. Tom Wong

            Sorry Bodger was using a different device, point noted.

            About the point you made SOQ I have given you no information whatsoever to inform any sort of perspective that you would happen on that I was ‘on a jolly’.

            Yet this was your first conclusion that you drew from my comment.

            That because here I was highlighting a particular issue, it must be ME who is the perpetrator in the piece. That says all I need to know about you and your mindset.
            Thank you for playing. I will be avoiding your comments ongoing.

        1. Tom Wong

          How many brain cells do you have now Rob_G/Brother Barnabas/Sidhe?

          If it was only half as many as your usernames and log ins…

  5. Tom J

    Maybe he needs to consult members of the public who have experienced the Corona virus first hand.

  6. Matt Pilates

    Good insight from Derek. It’s a real game of dominoes.

    Dublin Airport arrivals is a joke. We’ll pay more dearly than a few closed BnBs and pubs…

      1. Cian

        What is your point?
        The majority of nursing homes in the 26 counties have had no COVID cases.

Comments are closed.

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