A 5.10pm Ryanair flight from East Midlands Airport to Portugal never felt so important.
That’s because on Monday, April 17, the flight to Faro was the only one on a very lonely looking departures board.
In fact, it was the first flight to depart from the airport in Castle Donington in months, and was yet another visual representation of another step forward towards normality.
It’s worth noting, however, that this flight felt far from normal – it was the only slither of activity at an otherwise deserted East Midlands airport.
The car park was empty and the whole place had quite an eerie feel to it.
Scattered amongst the boarded up check-in desks and shops were the passengers – all 34 of them.
Usually on a day like this in May, 12,000 people are expected to depart from this airport. Now those boarding a plane enjoyed the freedom of the place and stuck out like a sore thumb.
Of those making the trip to Portugal, most gave different reasons for exiting the country at the earliest available opportunity.
One couple was celebrating their wedding anniversary, another was looking forward to meeting friends in the pub – one man was just desperate to play golf in the sun, another woman was making an emotional final trip to the apartment she shared with her late husband.
All passengers were on the plane and boarded 10 minutes ahead of schedule (there was unsurprisingly no hold up over security or confusion over which gate to go to) and then were up in the air and on their way abroad again.
On Tuesday the number of flights is expected to double to two. The number of departures is expected to continue at this sort of slow pace for a while, as just Ryainair is currently operating out of the airport for passenger flights.
But, while the first flight marked a small step back towards the number of passengers its used to dealing with, progress is progress.
The hope is that, if all goes well, planes will keep exiting and landing on the runway every day from now on.