It’s a sight that, even in pre-pandemic times, would make most travelers’ hearts sink.
Because the last thing someone wants after a long journey home is to stand in line for just as long after landing at the airport.
But now, more than 12 months after the coronavirus changed the way we live, the idea of standing in line for hours with hundreds of others in cramped, stuffy conditions seems almost unbearable.
However, this was the sight that greeted Stuart Rideout of Vale of Glamorgan when he arrived at Heathrow last night – a scene he described as “swimming in covid soup”.
“There were only 20 people on our plane back from Germany, so I thought I was going to run straight to the parking lot,” said the 52-year-old filmmaker, who was behind both the previous M&S and Waitrose and 2016 Christmas promotions stood award-winning promo for the Climate Coalition with Oscar winner Jeremy Irons.
“In addition, there were hardly any aircraft on the tarmac when we landed.
“But when we finally got to the UK border control in Terminal 2, I said, ‘Oh my god’.”
For the next four hours, Stuart found himself in a long line – “the kind you normally see for a ride in Disneyland” – surrounded by hundreds of others.
“People tried to distance themselves socially at first, but that soon fell apart,” he said.
“The line just went back and forth, up and down, and soon there were bodies on all sides.
“It was very humid there too, but to be fair, the airport staff were handing out bottles of water.
“Even if there is the uncomfortable feeling of touching something that has been given to you by someone else.
“And if it does, while it’s still just meant to be an essential journey, God knows what will happen when it all opens up again.”
After filming a tea commercial in Germany, Stuart said he had already done a PCR test and filled out the appropriate passenger search forms in order to travel. It was also tested daily while working on the project.
“It was really tough over there, but then you come back here to stand in a room with hundreds of other people from all over the world and you all breathe the same air.
“Okay, I assume they were also tested before going on their respective flights, but there was still one man who had to be removed from the queue because he was showing symptoms.
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“He was then taken away to be isolated.”
Stuart added that he has now also been quarantined at his home near Bridgend for 10 days.
“If I hadn’t already been vaccinated, I would be really worried.”
Comment was requested from Heathrow Airport.