Yes but no but yes: Flight bookings skyrocket despite confusing travel rules | Coronavirus


Airlines have dramatically increased the number of flights to “orange list” vacation destinations amid growing confusion over the government’s traffic light strategy.

A total of 1,841 flights were scheduled from UK airports to France, Spain, Italy and Greece during the two weeks following last Monday – an increase of over 300% from the previous fortnight – despite warnings from Prime Minister Boris Johnson not to go on vacation to Orange List countries.

The increase would allow up to 356,768 passengers to potentially travel to Amber List countries, according to figures from aviation data analyst Cirium.

Industry sources said airlines arranged flights and cleared bookings because the government said it would ease travel restrictions. Ministers caused confusion last week, declaring holidays abroad to Amber List countries allowed, before the prime minister finally insisted they were not.

Despite the warnings, travel appears to be resuming across Europe. Airbnb bookings across the continent are almost back to 2019 levels after a sharp increase in the past two weeks. AirDNA, which monitors vacation rental websites, said new bookings for the week ending May 15 were only 4% lower than in 2019.

Jamie Lane, Vice President of Research for AirDNA, said: “Starting at the end of April, we finally saw a resurgence in short-term rental bookings across Europe. The increase was observed in almost all the countries of Europe, but it was the strongest in France. Bookings were strong everywhere except Paris, he said.

After months of anticipation from people desperate for a summer vacation, the government’s traffic light system has added another layer of complexity to overseas travel.

Vacationers must navigate a rapidly changing set of rules about which countries will allow them to enter and what the government expects of them when they return home, while betting that the wrong choice can leave them with thousands. sterling if they are. not entitled to a refund.

Sao Rafael Beach, Albufeira, Algarve, Portugal
Preparation for the arrival of British visitors to Sao Rafael beach in Albufeira, Algarve, last week. Portugal is one of the countries on the green list. Photograph: Ana Brigida / AP

As of Saturday, only three destinations on the green list, Portugal, Madeira and Gibraltar, had no entry restrictions and faced the slightest restrictions set by the government – booking Covid tests before they left and after they returned.

The most popular holiday destinations in Europe are on the Amber List, which means anyone traveling from any country in the UK to those countries must take a Covid-19 test before returning and then self-isolate. for 10 days and pass two more tests while self-isolating.

But not all countries will accept British tourists. Spain, a country on the orange list, will allow British travelers to enter from Monday. On Saturday, Germany announced that it would deny entry to anyone traveling from the UK unless they are a German resident or citizen from midnight Sunday, due to fears over the Indian variant of Covid.

Yet while vacationers can travel to Spain, anyone who has booked a vacation can still be disappointed. Abta, the travel association, said tour operators would cancel package holidays to any destination where the Foreign Office advises against all travel except essential travel – which it does for most Amber List countries. .

To make matters even more confusing, the advice of the Foreign Ministry does not apply to the Spanish territories of the Canary Islands, so someone who has booked a vacation package to Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Fuerteventura or Lanzarote could travel.

In fact, they may have to ignore the Prime Minister’s request not to travel or risk losing their vacation money. Tour operators are only required to offer refunds when people are prevented from traveling.

The same loophole applies to the Greek islands of Rhodes, Kos, Zakynthos, Corfu and Crete, as well as Barbados, Bermuda and Grenada in the Caribbean.

Rory Boland, editor-in-chief of Which? Trip, said: “If you are a vacationer, you are placed by the government between a rock and a hard place. He says don’t go, but that doesn’t allow you to ask for a refund. It is a really difficult position to occupy.

“People are inundated with conflicting and confusing information about international travel, and those who want to stick to government advice and decide not to travel to Orange List countries, including those who have booked the last year, will probably have a hard time getting a refund. “

To make matters more delicate, people who travel independently to places against the advice of the Foreign Office can invalidate their travel insurance, the Association of British Insurers said. And most policies do not cover emergency medical treatment for Covid infections, an ABI spokesperson said.

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