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COVID-19 RECOVERY

First flight in three months takes to the skies from Paris's Orly airport

Firefighters salute a Transavia Boeing 737-800 with water spraying as it becomes the first flight in three months to take off from Paris' Orly airport on June 26, 2020.
Firefighters salute a Transavia Boeing 737-800 with water spraying as it becomes the first flight in three months to take off from Paris' Orly airport on June 26, 2020. AFP - ERIC PIERMONT
3 min

The first flight in three months took to the skies from Paris’s Orly airport Friday morning, marking a gradual return of air traffic that collapsed during the Covid-19 health crisis.

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An low-cost Transavia flight bound for the Portuguese city of Porto took off at 6.25am, with airport fire engines spraying the plane with water cannon during a so-called "water salute" ceremony beforehand.

Operators Aéroports de Paris (ADP) say traffic will be extremely slow, with just over 70 aircraft movements expected in lieu of the habitual 600. 

They’ll serve Corsica, several countries in the visa-free Schengen zone, and the French overseas departments – and will be flown by Air Caraïbes, Air Corsica, Air France, Amelia, Corsair, French Bee, Transavia (a subsidiary of Air France) and Wizzair.

Some 8,000 passengers are expected at Orly – less than 10 percent of the usual throng of 90,000 passengers on an average day.

Since 1 April, all commercial flights from the capital have been grouped together at Charles de Gaulle airport, north of Paris, to bring down operating costs.

ADP has cautioned that Orly’s reopening is only “partial”, with flights initially taking off from Orly 3, a brand new terminal that opened just over a year ago. Terminals 4, 1 and 2 will gradually follow suit.

An operator disinfects self-service check-in kiosks at Orly 3 terminal's departure hall on the day of the re-opening of Paris' Orly airport on June 26, 2020.
An operator disinfects self-service check-in kiosks at Orly 3 terminal's departure hall on the day of the re-opening of Paris' Orly airport on June 26, 2020. AFP - ERIC PIERMONT

Strict health measures

To help prevent the spread of coronavirus, more than 7,000 posters and stickers marking physical distance have been put in place, while plexiglas has been installed at reception desks, check-ins and boarding banks. Some 150 gel dispensers are also available to travellers. 

Upon arrival, passengers must have their temperature taken by a thermal camera, while a cabin baggage decontamination system using ultraviolet rays is being tested.

Shops and boutiques at Orly are slowly reopening as passenger numbers increase. Fabric shopping baskets in duty free shops have been replaced by metal ones that can be disinfected regularly.

The International Air Transport Association anticipates global air traffic will not return to pre-Covid-19 levels before 2023. Domestic flights are expected to recover first, followed by pan-European flights and then international flights.

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