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Spain holidays: FCO issue new warning for Britons with Spanish travel plans ahead

The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has updated its travel advice following some changes to the current coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown measures being enforced in Spain.

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Spain enforced one of the strictest lockdowns in Europe after a State of Emergency (“Estado de Alarma”) was announced on 14 March.

Since then, in line with dropping cases and deaths due to the pandemic, the government has begun to slowly reintroduce more freedoms back into daily life.

On May 11 regions where the impact of the virus was lessening began to enter into “stage one” of loosened restrictions.

Restaurants and bars are being allowed to serve clients outdoors, shops selling non-essential items may reopen and private gatherings of 10 people or fewer can be held.

Members of the public have also been allowed to exercise outside.

More severely impacted regions and cities such as Madrid and Barcelona, must wait another week before similar steps may be considered.

Speaking to the nation on Saturday, Spain’s Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez urged Spaniards to act with “total caution and prudence”.

However, while the citizens of Spain may be rejoicing, for holidaymakers the dream of a vacation may be slipping further away.

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In a bid to protect the country, the Spanish government has implemented stricter measures for those crossing the border.

According to the latest FCO advice, which was updated on May 12: “Following further border restrictions, only Spanish citizens, those who are legally resident in Spain, frontier workers or those who can prove they need to enter Spain for essential reasons will be allowed to enter the country.

“Only green residency certificates will be accepted as proof of residency in Spain and British travellers who are not resident and/or not in possession of this certificate should not attempt to enter the country.

“Padron certificates, utility bills and property deeds will not be accepted by Spanish authorities as proof of residency.“

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The FCO adds: “You must meet the requirements in order to enter.

“From 15 May, additionally, international arrivals will need to self-isolate for 14 days.”

Self-isolation can be done in a person’s main residence or hotel.

British travellers who are not residents are also being urged not to travel to Gibraltar and attempt to enter Spain via the land frontier.

Any Britons who are currently in Spain are being advised to return home as soon as possible.

“British travellers who are currently in Spain and who wish to return to the UK will continue to be allowed to depart and are advised to make travel plans to do so as soon as possible,” the FCO advises.

Additionally, the UK government is advising Britons against all nonessential travel for an indefinite period of time.

Under current lockdown restrictions in the UK, both international and domestic holidays are banned.

The future of travel remains uncertain, however, some experts in Spain have suggested the country may welcome back tourism as early as August.

According to the FCO: “While no specific dates have been attributed to each phase, it is estimated that each one will last for an initial period of 2 weeks from May 4.

“Moving from one phase to another will be contingent on the control of the COVID-19 outbreak in Spain and different provinces and regions of Spain may progress at different speeds.”

Spanish tourism minister Reyes Maroto spoke to local newspaper El Pais, saying: “We have to guarantee, when international tourism opens, that the person who comes to Spain is a safe person…

“The issue of borders will be accompanied by the evolution of the health crisis.

“Therefore, I do not have the solution of when [they will be able to open].

“On how you will be able to enjoy our beaches, we are defining different scenarios.

“It is very important that the sanitary recommendations are maintained, we are going to have to internalise what we are already doing now, hand washing, social distancing … even on the beaches.

“Those patterns will be in our day to day for a time, you cannot take a step back.”

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Google Maps: Woman caught in painful position hiking Himalayas

Google Maps Street View often sends images viral, especially when they are funny and out of the ordinary. Google Maps is a great tool for navigating the planet and mapping your way to new destinations. However, the technology is also known for regular glitching leaving viewers amused and questioning if what they are seeing is real.

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One such glitch happened whilst a woman was hiking in the Himalayas.

One shocked user posted the image to Reddit to see if any other users had any idea if the image was a glitch or whether the woman had been caught in a painful position while hiking the Himalayas.

The Reddit user wrote: “Quite a contortionist.”

Glitches are very common on Google Maps Street View.

Google Maps creates the images by stitching together the 360 degree image sets submitted by users, meaning small errors can easily occur.

Glitches are therefore very common on the site.

This particular image showed a woman hiking the Himalayas and the Google camera has caught her in a position where her waist is twisted around the middle.

The top of her body is facing one way and her legs and feet are facing the other way.

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Parts of her body are also missing, making her look larger than she is.

This glitch can appear quite amusing before people work out the truth.

The man behind her also looks to be in an uncomfortable position.

It appears that he has an arm missing.

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It also looks like he is carrying something but because his arms appear to be caught in the glitch, the white object is very close to his body.

However this is just from one point of view and is a glitch that Google has created.

Another glitch that left viewers uncertain was one found in Toronto, Canada.

An image of a Range Rover with six wheels appeared on Reddit and left users questioning whether this modified car was real or not.

One eager user said: “That’s one of the cleanest glitches I’ve seen, almost looks real.”

When looked closely, the Range Rover appears to look real, with no part of the car missing.

If an object is captured whilst moving, it creates duplicates of the scene.

Should this happen, Google can end up glitching, sitting various parts of the object or person together in a weird way, appearing to be real.

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Travel

Caravan sites and holiday parks open: When are caravan sites likely to reopen?

Caravan sites and holiday parks in Britain have seen a surge in popularity in recent years as the trend for staycations amid Brexit rose. Britons have been confined to their homes since March 23, but now new lockdown easing guidance has provided insight into when certain sectors of normal life will reopen. So when are caravan sites and holiday parks likely to reopen?

The Government published a 50-page document this week revealing the blueprint plan for easing coronavirus lockdown restrictions across the UK.

The rollout of these measures is expected to be undertaken in three distinct phases:

Phase one which will begin from Wednesday will involve:

  • Workers who are unable to work from home are being encouraged to return to the workplace
  • There is no longer a limit on the amount of exercise one can undertake.
  • People can also meet up with one other person from outside your household so long as social distancing is maintained.
  • Members of the public are now allowed to rest and sit outside or play sports with memes of their household.
  • People are also able to drive to other destinations to undertake exercise.

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Phase two will come into effect at the earliest from June 1, these measures include:

  • Some school years may return on this date including Reception, Year 1 and Year 6.
  • The Government also hopes that some of the shops which are currently closed will be permitted to reopen at this time.

Phase three will begin at the earliest from July 1 and will involve:

  • Some hospitality businesses being permitted to reopen ensuring they can provide safe environments and strictly enforce social distancing measures.

During the first stage of lockdown from March 23 to May 10, travelling to other parts of England has been banned.

In fact, many important figures in the coronavirus response, including chief scientists, have been forced to resign from their roles after breaking these rules.

The following four specific and essential reasons were the only reasons one was permitted to leave their home:

  • Shopping for basic necessities
  • Exercise once a day
  • Medical need
  • Travel to work only if this cannot be done from home.

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When will caravan sites and holiday parks reopen?

It is unclear exactly when caravan sites and holiday parks will reopen.

From Wednesday, people in England are permitted to drive to other destinations for day trips.

The Government guidance reads: “People may drive to outdoor open spaces irrespective of distance, so long as they respect social distancing guidance while they are there because this does not involve contact with people outside your household.

“When travelling to outdoor spaces, it is important that people respect the rules in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and do not travel to different parts of the UK where it would be inconsistent with guidance or regulations issued by the relevant devolved administration.”

The Government document makes no specific mention of camping.

However, experts have said the advice on camping has not changed and Britons are still advised not to travel to campsites at the moment.

In addition, the rules on travelling to second home have not changed and the Government guidance dictates leaving the place where you live to stay at another home is not permitted.

In England from Wednesday, you can travel to another county for exercise or for a day trip in an outdoor space, but you are not allowed to stay.

What do individual caravan sites and holiday parks say?

Away resorts: All parks are closed for the foreseeable future and no new bookings are being accepted until after July 3.

The Camping and Caravanning Club: All sites are closed for now but hopes to reopen campsites in August.

Caravan Club: The company is planning to introduce a phased reopening of its sites network during July.

Flower of May: All parks are closed.

Haven: All sites are closed until May 31.

Hoeseasons: Are not accepting bookings for holidays arriving on or before June 30.

Holidaylettings.co.uk: The company is reviewing its policy for travel after July 1.

John Fowler Holidays: All parks are shut until May 14, but it is likely this will be extended.

Lyons Holiday Parks: All parks are closed until at least May 28.

Parkdean Resorts: All parks are closed until at least mid-May.

Park Holidays: Bookings can only be made online beginning after May 14.

Woolacombe Bay Holidays Parks: All our Parks are now closed to holiday guests and the company is currently planning to reopen on June 1.

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Travel

Holidays 2020: Greece welcomes Britons without quarantine from next month

Britons may be able to holiday in Greece from June 1 without facing quarantine rules, according to Athens. The Greek government is now looking to ease its lockdown restrictions and revive the country’s usually booming tourism industry. The plan to reopen tourist hotspots and see travellers from various parts of Europe including the UK return to the country could begin from June 1.

The plans have already been set in motion with those who own tourism-led businesses returning to their properties on Monday.

Beginning next Monday, workers will be allowed to travel to the country.

More to follow…

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Ryanair boss slams 14-day quarantine as ‘nonsensical’ as airline to return in July

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has criticised the UK government’s plan for those arriving back in the UK to isolate for two weeks. He appeared on ITV’s Good Morning Britain today to share his thoughts on the new rules that were rolled out yesterday. Speaking to Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid, O’Leary slammed the quarantine measure as “nonsensical”.

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“I don’t think this 14-day isolation will be effective,” said O’Leary.

The Ryanair CEO pointed out that “lots of British families will be still be going abroad to Spain and Portugal for their two weeks holiday” and will be back more than two weeks before schools open.

He continued: “We know from our own customer feedback that there’s a huge pent up desire to want to get away to the beaches of Spain and Portugal.”

Today, Ryanair announced plans to return to 40 percent of normal flight schedules from Wed 1 July 2020, subject to Government restrictions on intra-EU flights being lifted, and effective public health measures being put in place at airports.

Ryanair will operate a daily flight schedule of almost 1,000 flights, restoring 90 percent of its pre-Covid-19 route network.

However, the airline is also encouraging passengers to observe effective health measures to limit the virus.

Just some of these include Ryanair cabin crew wearing face masks/coverings and a limited inflight service will be offered of pre-packaged snacks and drinks, but no cash sales. All onboard transactions will be cashless.

Queuing for toilets will also be prohibited on board although toilet access will be made available to individual passengers upon request.

“We have released a two and a half minute video this morning on effective health measures which largely include temperature checks, hand sanitation and face masks at all stages during the airports and on board the aircraft,” O’Leary told Morgan and Reid.

“What we’re against are overly ineffective measures such as this nonsensical two-week isolation, which somehow only applies if you’re not French or you’re not Irish.”

O’Leary explained he simply didn’t think the quarantine was something that could be regulated.

“It appears that the government can’t enforce the quarantine,” he told GMB.

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“There’s no quarantine for anybody travelling on the London Underground, which is a much more lethal centre for spreading viruses and coughs.”

O’Leary added: “There are a million passengers a day flying back into the UK [in normal circumstances] so the idea that any of it would be policed by this government is a nonsense.”

The Ryanair boss also explained that they are looking to sell as many seats as possible.

“We don’t need social distancing,” O’Leary said. “In fact, the government’s already recommended that where social distancing isn’t possible – wear facemasks.

“That is the effective measure against spreading COVID-19 not ineffective measures like 14-day isolation which nobody will observe anyway.”

Replying to Morgan’s comment that he felt for the airline industry, O’Leary said: “Don’t worry, we are a resilient lot, we will bounce back quickly with the support of our customers.”

Since the coronavirus flight restrictions in mid-March, Ryanair has been operating a skeleton daily schedule of 30 flights between Ireland, the UK and Europe.

From July, Ryanair will restart flying from most of its 80 bases across Europe.

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Travel insurance: With staycations ahead are insurance policies a thing of the past?

The importance of travel insurance has become even more apparent in recent months, as airlines and holiday operators are forced to halt operations amid the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Though it is not yet known how travel will look after the lockdown is finally lifted, it is anticipated that domestic holidays will be the first to return.

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In fact, recent data from CabinBookers reveals that 90 percent of British holidaymakers are planning a domestic holiday as soon as lockdown lifts.

While the majority of people know how important travel insurance for international travel, will the same policies be needed for those who are going away on a UK jaunt?

The answer is yes, although the type of policy you need may be a little bit different.

Domestic travel can also fall victim to unexpected cancellations or disruptions which can leave travellers out of pocket if they are not covered.

Disruptions can range from a hotel or booking cancellation, bad weather, or even lost and stolen property.

While some travel providers, such as hotels or accommodation providers, may offer a refund if plans are cancelled, others will not.

Similarly, unlike when travelling by plane, there are no regulations in place to protect you if you have to put plans on hold for reasons beyond your control.

What’s more, according to Policy Expert, the average domestic holidaymaker takes an average of £676 worth of valuables with them on holiday. 

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Yet around 70 percent of Britons don’t have any travel insurance in place.

The good news is, travellers won’t need to shell out for medical coverage which can add on extra cost – especially for those who have a pre-existing medical condition.

Experts from Admiral point out: “Luckily, travelling in the UK will mean that your medical care is still covered by the NHS.

“However, taking out travel insurance will mean you’re further covered for things such as inpatient travel expenses to and from the hospital, or if you have to return to your home area on the advice of a doctor.” 

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Since April 2009 there has also been no NHS medical cover for UK travellers in the Chanel Islands, so it’s important to take out travel insurance holiday plans to Guernsey, Jersey, Alderney, Sark or Herm.

There is also a small catch to travel insurance with some companies – how far you go.

According to Admiral, they only provide travel insurance for domestic holidays if a traveller is heading 25 miles or further from their home. 

Regardless of where the next holiday destination may be, travel insurance experts from CompareByReview believe Britons are now a lot more aware of just how important policies are.

According to their latest research, 85 percent of those surveyed said that they will now take far more care when selecting their travel insurance provider in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The experts said: “Many participants told us that they will be holidaying at home from now on and ‘explore their own country’ with a few even mentioning that they will investigate purchasing holiday insurance to cover these trips.”

The team also speculate that new “UK based insurance policies” could be on the horizon following the pandemic.

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Greece: Santorini trials social distancing beach chairs with hopes tourism will follow

Greek island Santorini has implemented new social distancing measures on some of its beaches, despite concerns from locals. The new additions see beach chairs and sun loungers encased within a plexiglass screen.

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It is hoped that these screens will be a helpful precaution against the spread of COVID-19 once the island welcomes back tourists, which could be from as early as July.

However, while the theory behind them is positive, there are some locals who are not happy about the new beach features.

Charlie Chahine, who owns a beach bar on the island, says he does not like them.

“We hope these constructions you see are not going to be the future for beaches. We don’t want this, but if this is necessary, and if this is what people’s safety depends on, such a construction or any such construction – we (just) want to work, we want to get going,” he said.

Yet they are just the latest in a string of health and safety measures being tested out by Greece’s hotel and tourism operators, who have already been severely impacted by the lack of foot traffic.

Vice President of the Santorini Hotel Association Andreas Patiniotis revealed that hotels are down around 40 percent compared with 2019.

He explained that bookings in June last year were at 70 per cent, while at the moment they are hitting around 30 percent.

Year-round hotels, restaurants, cafes and shopping malls are set to reopen on June 1, but distance rules will apply and staff will have to wear masks. 

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It is unlikely tourism will return to normal immediately. 

The government said it would provide more details later on how it plans to revive the tourism sector, which employs one in five workers in Greece.

“I believe we have to start somewhere, so that there is work for our suppliers, for our employees. There are so many people that depend on hotels,” said Mr Patiniotis.

It is not yet clear when international travellers, including Britons, will be welcomed back to the island.

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Although Greece is now relaxing its lockdown measures, with restrictions on Greeks’ free movement lifted on May 4, citizens in the country will not be allowed to leave their wider region of residence.

There remains a ban on non-EU nations including the United States and Britain as well as of Spain and Italy from passing the Greek border.

Despite this, Greek officials have said that they hope British tourists do eventually return.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme  Greek tourist minister Harry Theoharis said coronavirus measures would remain in place throughout the summer season, but that Britons would be welcomed back eventually.

He said: “We want people to come to Greece.

“Of course, we will take precautions in terms of the requirements before travelling but also in the way that we travel, the way that we stay on the beach etcetera.

“Social distancing rules will apply but we have welcomed tourists for more than 50 years and we want to continue showing the kind of hospitality that we’re very much known for.”

In 2018, Santorini welcomed around 2 million people, meanwhile last year alone Greece attracted 34 million visitors and earned 18 billion euros from tourism.

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Ryanair boss claims customers WILL get a cash refund…but there is a catch

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary claimed the airline’s policy on refunds had not changed despite the coronavirus. While speaking to EuroNews, Mr O’Leary claimed all those that request a cash refund, instead of a future travel voucher, would receive one. He added a condition of requesting a cash refund would be waiting a considerable number of months to receive it.

Mr O’Leary said coronavirus had resulted in the company only operating at 25 percent capacity for its refund processing staff.

He also noted the company had over 30 million refund requests to deal with, in comparison to their normal 10,000 a month.

Mr O’Leary said: “It is very important that all customers understand there has been no change to your refund entitlement.

“If you want a cash refund you will get a cash refund.

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“However, people have to also understand that the airlines of Europe have had two and a half months of flights cancelled, the second half of March, April and May.

“In Ryanair today we are dealing with a backlog of 30 million refunds.

“Our normal process of refunds is about 10,000 refunds per month.

“We don’t even have those people in the office processing those refunds.

“We are down to 25 percent of our refund processing staff.

“If you want a catch refund you will receive your cash fund but it will take many months to process this backlog.”

Mr O’Leary went on to explain the difficulties Ryanair is expecting in trying to get refunds back to all those who requested it.

He continued: “We can’t get that backlog processed until the restrictions on people coming to work are lifted.

READ MORE:

“We also need to hire another 1,000 people to handle the refund processing.

“We have said your refund is secure but it would help us to get rid of this backlog if you would take a voucher which would allow you to use it for future travel.

“Like in the months July, August or even the summer of 2021 once we are back travelling.

“That is at least the best way to get the backlog down.”

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Heathrow Airport to trial COVID-19 screening for passengers post-lockdown

The airport’s bosses have been trying to come up with a “common international standard” for technologies and processes to help reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

The new technology includes ultra violet sanitation, facial recognition with thermostat reading technology and contactless security procedures.

The temperature checks will reportedly take place at the airport’s immigration halls.

Chief executive John Holland-Kaye told MPs in the House of Commons about the trials today.

More to follow…

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Travel

easyJet latest travel advice for holiday plans in July, August & September

Britons may be slowly becoming less certain about their future holiday plans, as lockdown measures show little sign of imminent change. easyJet is one of the many who have cancelled vast swathes of its planned flight schedule in the coming months, with all flights cancelled “until further notice”.

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Couple that with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) advice to Britons to avoid all but essential travel for an “indefinite” period of time, it paints a worrying outlook for impending holidays that have not yet been officially cancelled.

For those who have been warned by the government to take extra safety precautions, such as people with pre-existing medical conditions or who are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, the concept of travelling abroad before a vaccine is developed might be concerning.

However, airlines such as Jet2 have hinted at flights restarting as early as June, which is a positive nod towards the future of travel for many.

Of course, given the nature of the pandemic, the future is uncertain in almost every way, and easyJet has given no clear sign as to when travel will resume.

“In these extraordinary times, we’re missing travel as much as anyone. As soon as it is safe to do so, we will be flying again,” reads a statement on the easyJet website.

“Until then, we thank you for your support and understanding.”

So what options are available to easyJet customers?

The airline has currently grounded all flights, other than those aiding in a vital repatriation effort to bring Britons home.

easyJet says it has already flown “around 45,000 customers” back to the UK and continues to “work with governments to support the ongoing effort.”

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Customers who’s flight plans have already been cancelled should expect to hear from a member of the airline’s customer service team.

They will then be given a number of options to chose from in line with the airline’s coronavirus cancellation policy.

“We know that this has been a difficult and frustrating time for many of you who have had your travel plans disrupted, for those who may have had to wait on calls, or for those who faced difficulties booking onto rescue flights,” reads a statement from the airline.

easyJet is currently working on a 7-day rolling basis which means customers are only likely to hear the fate of their future travel plans a week before the anticipated departure date. 

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Those who have cancelled plans will be given the option to reschedule or receive a flight voucher worth the value of their journey.

According to easyJet customers can “switch to any other flight, any time.”

They advise: “You can fly anywhere on our network and you will not pay change fees.  

“Seats are currently for sale until May 2021 and you can do this via Manage Bookings or the easyJet app.

“Claim a voucher for the full value of your ticket. If you aren’t ready to book again just yet, a voucher provides the flexibility to book travel in future, for flying through to at least Summer 2021.”

The airline aims to accommodate all requests within 28 days of contact. 

Customers who wish to claim their money back instead can do so via the airline’s dedicated call centres, but they warn “our call centre team have been impacted by a combination of high demand and national lockdowns, so call waiting times and processing will be considerably longer than usual.”

Customers who have future plans which they may no longer feel comfortable with are also being offered the opportunity to amend their travel dates free of charge.

However, should they wish to cancel, the airline says they are not able to offer a refund.

easyJet explains: “We review our flying program every seven days and we advise customers to wait until that time frame to be able to choose all available options given to them.

“If your flight is not cancelled we are unable to process any refund requests.”

Express.co.uk contacted easyJet for further comment, and to determine if there is a way to claim money back for future travel. 

A spokesperson explained that customers who want to cancel are still bound by easyJet’s standard terms and conditions relating to refunds.

They said: “Customers on cancelled flights can transfer to an alternative flight free of charge or receive a voucher for the value of their booking online or claim a refund through our contact centre. Customers may also submit a claim in writing via a new dedicated refund webform, online.

“We are processing refunds for customers and aim to so in less than 28 days, however because of the increased volumes due to the pandemic, it could, unfortunately, take longer. We would thank customers for their patience and assure them that these entitlements will be available long after their cancelled flight has flown.    

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