(CNN) – Earlier this week, we wrote to you from Barbados during Prince Charles’s whirlwind tour, as the Caribbean island took its first steps as a republic.
We were one of several media outlets invited to join the heir to the throne’s flight to Bridgetown to cover the celebrations that marked the end of the reigns as head of state.
For the trip, the Prince of Wales flew on the RAF Voyager, a UK-owned Airbus A330 used on official overseas visits by members of the royal family and government ministers. Carlos recently came on board with his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, for their four-day voyage to Jordan and Egypt.
The UK owns several Voyager aircraft, which are typically used for in-flight refueling and strategic airlift. However, one of the aircraft in the fleet was retrofitted in 2016 for VIP transport, and this was our aircraft.
It is sometimes jokingly called “Heir Force One” (the “Heir’s Force One”), and last year it received a £ 900,000 (nearly US $ 1.2 million) refinish to repaint the aircraft military gray. in the colors of the Union flag (red, white and blue).
Inside it looks like, well, any other airliner. The refueling aircraft was refurbished with business-type seats in the front and center sections, and regular economy-class seats in the rear. The traveling press sits in the back along with military personnel who could also be on the flight.
In accordance with the protocols of the pandemic, masks are currently used on board and physical distancing has been taken into account when assigning seats to passengers. And in case you’re wondering what movies were available, you’ll be surprised to learn that there are no in-flight entertainment options or screens on the back of the headrests.
The most frequent questions they ask us when they find out that we have traveled by plane usually revolve around what the food is like. Sadly, the answer is pretty boring – it’s pretty similar to commercial flights, with a choice of meat, fish, or vegetarian (though perhaps a bit tastier than usual).
Traveling inside the real bubble is always an interesting experience, although much of it is spent waiting for a security escort to enter and exit the safe zones.
For example, Voyager is based at RAF Brize Norton, an air force station in Oxfordshire. For security reasons, non-military personnel cannot be allowed to roam freely around the base, so journalists must gather and wait to be escorted in groups.
The highlight of any trip with members of the royal family are those unforeseen moments between the many daily engagements.
The trip to Barbados was so short that there was little time to see Prince Charles, who was focused on meeting with the authorities for the republic’s celebrations and reaffirming the close relationship between the two countries.
However, shortly after landing in the UK on Wednesday morning, he came over to chat with us for a few minutes.
Without much noise or anticipation, the prince approached us as we were gathering our belongings to get off the plane, and made sure to greet new members of the traveling press and thank the group for joining the tour. A simple gesture that does not have to be done, but that contributes greatly to maintaining the relationship with the media.