England’s airports have seen waves of holidaymakers rush to leave the country before the latest lockdown rules come into effect on Thursday.
The new rules, which will see both international travel and travel inside the UK banned for a month, have sparked a stampede of people rushing to the departure gates before they are slammed shut to all but a handful of travellers.
As part of the lockdown plans, travellers who are already on holiday, or leave before Thursday, are not required to return from their trips early, it has been announced.
Queues of people have been seen at UK airports, including Heathrow (pictured) as travellers seek to get out of the country before the latest lockdown restrictions come into force this week
What are quarantine rules in the Caribbean?
Many Brits have chosen the Caribbean as their destination for the winter getaway ahead of the country’s latest lockdown on Thursday.
Caribbean countries have had relatively low numbers of Covid cases. Barbados has had 237 while St Lucia has only had 84.
This means you are not required to quarantine if returning to the UK.
However, most consider the UK as a high-risk country and therefore you may be subject to quarantine restrictions on your arrival abroad.
Travel restrictions differ from country to country so it is important to check before you book.
All Caribbean countries require you to produce a negative Covid test before boarding and some may require you to undergo further health screenings on arrival.
In Antigua, you are generally free to travel as you please once you have produced a negative test and passed the health screening.
In Barbados, you will also be subject to a further four-to-five day quarantine at a ‘Covid approved facility’ or a government facility until you pass a second test.
Meanwhile, in St Lucia, you must stay at a ‘Covid-approved’ accommodation for the full 14 days.
You can find the latest requirements on the UK Gov website.
In a bid to take advantage of this, travellers were seen queuing at Heathrow today as they raced to leave the country before the lockdown rules come into effect.
Industry expert Paul Charles, who has more than 25 years in the travel, said the country’s ‘pent-up demand to travel’ had seen a number of bookings to countries including in the Caribbean.
Mr Charles, who runs the PC Agency, told Sky News: ‘There’s enormous pent-up demand to travel and a lot of bookings have actually been taken in the last 24 hours from people searching for somewhere to go before Wednesday evening.
‘The Caribbean is one good example. It’s pretty open, you can go to Barbados, Antigua, St Lucia then come back to the UK and not have to quarantine and a lot of people may want to do that to leave the country – you can’t really blame them.
‘There are places to go but they’re few and far between.’
Several travel agents have said they have been inundated with booking requests from Brits desperate to get away before lockdown begins on Thursday.
Colum McLornan, MD of single travel specialist Friendship Travel, told The Telegraph: ‘The phones at Friendship Travel are ringing off the hook this morning with single travellers desperate to fly to the sun before Thursday.
‘Unlike before, airlines don’t seem to be rushing to repatriate travellers, so if you start a holiday before Thursday then it looks as if you can complete it as planned.’
Most airlines have confirmed they will continue operating as normal until Wednesday evening, but will contact customers whose pre-booked trips may be affected from Thursday.
TUI, the world’s largest travel and tourism company, has today revealed its customers will be offered refund for holidays dashed by the new lockdown laws, while easyJet chiefs called for support for the travel industry.
In a statement, a spokesperson for TUI said: ‘Following the recent announcement about additional restrictions in England from 00:01 on Thursday 5 November all TUI holidays between Sunday, November 1 and Wednesday, November 4 are currently due to operate as planned.
Many Brits are seeking out low-risk Covid areas with limited quarantine restrictions as their destination of choice for a winter getaway ahead of the new national lockdown on Thursday
‘Customers due to travel before Thursday are able to amend their holiday to a later date for free.
‘We understand that holidays abroad (for those living in England) are unable to take place from 00:01 on Thursday, November 5.
‘As soon as we have more information we will be updating customers as soon as we can.
‘If holidays are unable to take place, customers will be notified and offered the option to amend with an incentive, receive an ATOL-protected refund credit note with a re-booking incentive, or cancel and receive a full cash refund within 14 days.
‘Customers currently on holiday can continue to enjoy their holiday as planned.’
Jet2 also said it was planning to continue as normal between now and the lockdown deadline.
A spokesperson said: ‘We are planning to operate as normal between now and Wednesday, November 4, so customers wanting to get away from the cold and gloom can still book and travel as normal.
‘For customers due to depart up to and including Wednesday, November 4, and who do not wish to travel, they can amend their booking to a later date with no admin fee.
‘If flights or holidays are affected by any changes, we will contact customers to advise them of their options. Customers in resort should continue to enjoy their holidays as planned.
‘Our contact centre is receiving a high volume of enquiries at the moment, so we remind customers that they do not need to contact us. We will be in touch with any updates.
Most airlines have confirmed they are operating as normal until Wednesday evening and, as people are not required to head home early from a holiday that started before lockdown, many Brits are seeking to take advantage and head on holiday before lockdown begins on Thursday
The travel ban, which is similar to measures imposed in March, comes just weeks after the government added popular winter holiday hot-spots, the Maldives and the Canaries, to the coronavirus safe list. Pictured: A beach in the Caribbean island of Antigua
Travel website reveals your rights to a refund – while travel expert backs re-booking
Travel deal website TravelSupermarket has revealed your rights to a refund.
Emma Coulthurst from the holiday price comparison site said: ‘If flights are still running, under current terms and conditions not all airlines will provide vouchers, meaning that people could lose their money if they are travelling soon.
‘For example, Ryanair allows you to change your flight once for free (paying any fare difference) up to 7 days beforehand.
‘Now that there is a complete ban on travel from 5 Nov to 2 Dec, I urge all airlines to make their policies flexible and allow vouchers during this time.
‘It is unfair not to provide vouchers for future use in these circumstances.
‘Protections are stronger with a package. Since there is a ban on travel domestically or abroad, consumers should expect to see their package holidays cancelled and to get their money back.
‘Also, with UK holidays, the CMA – the Government body – has made it clear that when Government policy means that consumers cannot go to their accommodation, the contract becomes frustrated and holidaymakers should also be given a refund.’
‘We would like to thank our customers for their understanding and patience.’
A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson added: ‘We continue to monitor the Covid-19 situation very carefully, including the latest guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), as well as any new entry or quarantine restrictions implemented by the countries we fly to.
‘We’re aware of the latest guidance issued by UK government, that from 5th November, UK nationals should avoid all non-essential travel.
‘We are currently evaluating what this means for our customers and flying programme.
‘At present, our schedule remains as published on our website, however our teams will be in contact with any customers whose travel may be affected, to discuss their options.’
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said there would be ‘no exemption’ for going on holiday.
A spokesperson said: ‘From Thursday there is no exemption for staying away from home on holiday.
‘This means people cannot travel internationally or within the UK, unless for work, education or other legally permitted exemptions.
‘Overnight stays away from primary residences will not be allowed, except for specific exceptions including for work.
‘In terms of those Britons currently abroad inbound international travel will continue to be governed by the travel corridor approach.
‘Separately, those currently on a domestic holiday will be allowed to finish their holidays, but are still subject to the requirements in England not to go out without a reasonable excuse.’
The new restrictions are for England, with devolved powers in Scotland and Wales set to assess their own situation and apply their own rules.
Travellers have rushed to book first flights to the Canary islands as the popular holiday destination has been added to the UK quarantine-free list (pictured, Gran Canaria)
But the FCDO say that holidaymakers won’t be able to subvert travel rules by flying out from Scotland and Wales – as ‘travel within the UK is banned, unless for work, education or other legally permitted exemptions’.
Emma Coulthurst, of comparison site Travelsupermarket, said since the Government announced travel to winter sun hotspots such as the Canary Islands and the Maldives would be permitted from October 22, tens of thousands of people were likely to have booked.
She said the decision had left travel plans ‘not just frayed or ragged but in shreds’.
She added: ‘Just a little more than a week ago, Grant Shapps tells the British public that they could now travel for leisure to the Canaries.
‘On the back of this permission, tens of thousands of people, many of whom haven’t gone away for months, decide to book a break in November.
‘The return of the Canaries was heralded as a glimmer of light for the industry and for holidaymakers. Now that is torn to pieces.
‘The UK government should surely have seen a week ago that it shouldn’t have been reopening travel corridors if there was a possibility that it would need to then completely reverse that decision and implement a lockdown?’
Johan Lundgren, CEO of easyJet, said when the Government opened up the Canaries a week ago, ‘bookings went through the roof’ with most taking place in November.
Meanwhile, the Government is facing rising criticism from the travel industry and calls for financial support to secure its future.
In a statement, Mr Lundgren told MailOnline: ‘Given the steps the Government has taken, which essentially prevents air travel in the UK, our call for sector specific support has never been more urgent.
‘The government has recognised the need to directly support the hospitality sector, where decisions have directly affected its ability to trade.
‘The same principle needs to be applied to aviation.
‘The government’s own statistics show that activity in aviation is already 90 per cent down on pre-pandemic levels, yet to date the government has still failed to provide any sector specific support.
‘A government financial support package for UK aviation companies must be provided now.’
‘A government financial support package for UK aviation companies must be provided now.’
EasyJet is offering flight changes with no fee for the next 14 days. Pictured: an easyJet plane
Mark Tanzer, chief executive of Abta, the travel association, said: ‘Today’s announcement that holidays in the UK and abroad will not be allowed under lockdown in England will mean a complete shut down for travel businesses which have already been severely damaged by the pandemic.’
Charlie Cornish, chief executive of Manchester Airports Group – which includes Stansted and East Midlands – slammed the way the information was communicated.
In a statement, he said: ‘Twitter is not the place where you want to find out that the government is effectively shutting down the business you run, but that’s what happened to the leaders of the UK aviation industry on Saturday.
‘The Government’s decision to ban people from travelling abroad came without warning and with no discussion with the industry about the support it will receive to help it get through this period.’
Meanwhile, General Secretary of the British Airline Pilots’ Association Brian Strutton, said: ‘We hope this blunt policy measure, which is yet another body blow to our vital air transport industry, will be accompanied with substantial compensation from the Government.
‘We have still not had any good explanation from the Government as to why they refuse to support airport testing as an alternative to such punitive travel restrictions.’