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Travel

How British travellers stranded abroad can get back to the UK

Many British travellers are stranded abroad and struggling to get home as air routes continue to be axed and borders close. Here are some escape routes to try if you’re heading back to the UK.

Getting home from Europe and the Mediterranean

Repatriation flights are continuing from Spain, where the highest number of British tourists are concentrated, and the Foreign Office is working with the Spanish authorities to get people home as soon as possible.

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Elsewhere, there are more flights than you might think, as British Airways and other carriers do what they can to get people where they need to be before global aviation grinds almost to a halt.

BA has arrivals at Heathrow and Gatwick from Germany, Spain, France and many other countries, and the airline is a good place to start looking for flights home.

Rail is an option from France and Belgium on Eurostar, though there is no certainty about how long trains will continue to operate – and how feasible it is for British travellers to gain access to the stations.

What about the British people stuck in Asia?

The main problem is flight bans being imposed by individual countries. British Airways still has flights from Japan, Thailand and other nations coming in. Many travellers were relying on the Gulf-based airlines, especially Emirates, to get them home, but the UAE has now imposed a flight ban from Wednesday 25 March.

Understandably the few remaining departures before then are very heavily subscribed and no seats are available at reasonable prices.

One feasible option may be Aeroflot. The leading Russian airline has reasonable availability at decent prices from Bangkok and Tokyo on 25 March and Kuala Lumpur on 27 March. Visa-free airside transit is currently allowed at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, but that will only apply if you book a through flight.

Can I get home from Australia and New Zealand?

Travellers in Australia and New Zealand are seeing options closing down almost by the hour. While Qantas has been operating its nonstop between Perth and Heathrow – which has the huge advantage of no en-route stops – bookings are very heavy.

Singapore has banned transit passengers, which means that route is now closed – and both Dubai and Abu Dhabi are also to close.

Air New Zealand has ended its Auckland-Heathrow link.

Travelling back from Latin America

There are troubling stories from those attempting to return to the UK. More than 600 travellers are stranded in Peru.The country is under lockdown, with official permission required for any non-local journey.

On Sunday British travellers were emailed to say that “several repatriation flights” should operate this week – with passengers asked to pay only £250, after they have returned home safely. But there is still no clarity about when or where the flights will depart (except that they may take off from military airports instead of civilian facilities).

The Independent has also heard from travellers in neighbouring Bolivia about the sheer impossibility of leaving due to the multiple travel bans in force.

Further north, a group of 20 young British travellers on a volunteering mission in Honduras are still unable to get home.

Travellers in Mexico can access daily flights to the UK – but to reach Mexico from Honduras requires transiting Guatemala.

Is there a travel ban from North America?

No. Flights are continuing from both the US and Canada, with United Airlines and others planning transatlantic links to and from Heathrow until further notice – or until further flight bans or a complete collapse in demand renders them unviable.

What about Africa? 

Kenya Airways is shutting down, and many African countries are imposing no-fly bans. But British Airways is continuing to fly from South Africa, and Ethiopian Airlines is offering connecting flights from a wide range of destinations through its Addis Ababa hub.

Top: Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Bottom: Charles Bridge, Prague

Grand Mosque, Mecca

2/20 Grand Mosque, Mecca

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

3/20 Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Nabi Younes market, Mosul

4/20 Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

5/20 Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

Charles Bridge, Prague

6/20 Charles Bridge, Prague

Taj Mahal hotel, India

7/20 Taj Mahal hotel, India

Dubai Mall, UAE

8/20 Dubai Mall, UAE

Beirut March, Lebanon

9/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Gateway of India, Mumbai

10/20 Gateway of India, Mumbai

Cairo University, Egypt

11/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Amman Citadel, Jordan

12/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

13/20 Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Beirut March, Lebanon

14/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Cairo, Egypt

15/20 Cairo, Egypt

Cairo University, Egypt

16/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Victoria Memorial, India

17/20 Victoria Memorial, India

Amman Citadel, Jordan

18/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Amman Citadel, Jordan

19/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Sidon, Lebanon

20/20 Sidon, Lebanon

1/20

Top: Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Bottom: Charles Bridge, Prague

Grand Mosque, Mecca

2/20 Grand Mosque, Mecca

Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

3/20 Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Nabi Younes market, Mosul

4/20 Nabi Younes market, Mosul

Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

5/20 Basra Grand Mosque, Iraq

Charles Bridge, Prague

6/20 Charles Bridge, Prague

Taj Mahal hotel, India

7/20 Taj Mahal hotel, India

Dubai Mall, UAE

8/20 Dubai Mall, UAE

Beirut March, Lebanon

9/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Gateway of India, Mumbai

10/20 Gateway of India, Mumbai

Cairo University, Egypt

11/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Amman Citadel, Jordan

12/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

13/20 Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Beirut March, Lebanon

14/20 Beirut March, Lebanon

Cairo, Egypt

15/20 Cairo, Egypt

Cairo University, Egypt

16/20 Cairo University, Egypt

Victoria Memorial, India

17/20 Victoria Memorial, India

Amman Citadel, Jordan

18/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Amman Citadel, Jordan

19/20 Amman Citadel, Jordan

Sidon, Lebanon

20/20 Sidon, Lebanon

Is the Foreign Office doing enough?

Diplomatic and consular resources are impossibly stretched. Staff who normally have a workload of a few lost passports and medical emergencies each week are having to deal with thousands of distressed travellers. Anyone who can look after their own situation should do so, to allow consular staff to work with cases of urgent need.

After the coronavirus crisis passes, travellers will need to contemplate how we can sustain ourselves in far flung corners of the world, and consider the medical, psychological and financial stresses that travel can involve.

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Travel

British Airways among airlines encouraging staff to take unpaid leave amid coronavirus crisis

Airlines around the world are encouraging employees to take unpaid leave as the spread of coronavirus has seen a huge drop in demand for flights.

British Airways is the latest to make the offer to staff, although the airline stressed “it’s entirely optional”.

“Like other airlines we are taking steps to control the costs in our business,” a spokesperson told The Independent.

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EasyJet has also instigated a pay and recruitment freeze, plus it’s offering unpaid leave and halting non-mandatory training.

Virgin Atlantic announced a company-wide recruitment freeze, restrictions on all non-essential staff travel and training, and the option of two weeks’ unpaid leave for ground-based employees.

CEO Shai Weiss has elected to take a 20 per cent pay cut between April and June, while the rest of the executive team have agreed to a 15 per cent drop in earnings.

Lufthansa Group, which includes Lufthansa, Swiss and Austrian Airlines, is implementing a hiring freeze and offering staff unpaid leave, effective immediately.

Asian and Gulf-based airlines have been hit particularly hard by the spread of Covid-19.

Hong Kong flag carrier Cathay Pacific has said 75 per cent of its staff (around 25,000 employees) have been asked to take unpaid leave for at least three weeks.

Singapore Airlines has imposed a hiring freeze and is considering encouraging current staff to take voluntary unpaid leave after a third round of capacity cuts. About 500 cabin crew and 50 pilots are not being fully utilised due to the drop in demand.

Dubai-based airline Emirates has asked workers to take up to a month of voluntary unpaid leave as the coronavirus outbreak forces it to cancel flights. Chief operating officer Adel al-Redha said in a statement: “Considering the availability of additional resources and the fact that many employees want to utilize their leave, we have provided our employees the option to avail leave or apply for voluntary unpaid leave for up to one month at a time.”

Etihad Airways, Abu Dhabi’s flag carrier, has asked cabin crew to consider bringing forward paid leave from later in the year to April to correspond to reduced demand.

“Etihad has not asked staff to take unpaid leave,” an Etihad spokesperson added.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) yesterday released advice stating that residents, including expats, shouldn’t travel anywhere amid the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak.

American airlines are following suit – United Airlines is suspending hiring until at least 30 June and there will be a pay freeze. A leaked memo sent to staff also suggests employees will be offered unpaid leave.

JetBlue soon followed, offering flight attendants unpaid leave in April, when it plans to cut capacity by 5 per cent.

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