Britons abroad ‘on their own’ as airlines cancel flights and borders lockdown
As confirmed cases of coronavirus rise around the globe, many governments are closing their borders to international travel. While this means many people are now faced with cancelled holiday plans, it also has left “between 400 and 500” British holidaymakers stuck abroad.
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Travel expert Simon Calder appeared on ITV’s This Morning to help guide those citizens who are on holiday on how they can get home during the crisis.
He spoke with a British holidaymaker who is currently stuck in Cyprus, and had some devastating news for him.
The traveller stated that his airline had cancelled all flights and were unable to get him home, despite the fact that some airlines are offering “rescue flights” for their passengers.
Alas, Calder explained: “This isn’t like the Thomas Cook collapse, I’m afraid if nobody else is helping you then you have to make your own arrangements.”
While in the Thomas Cook instance, other airlines stepped in to bring passengers home, in this case, the only airline that will help is the one the passenger booked their initial holiday with.
If they are unable to help, then holidaymakers will be responsible for finding their own method of transport.
That also means they could be shelling out even more money to get home.
Couple that with the news that many travel insurers are now cancelling policies made after the World Health Organisation’s decision to name the virus a pandemic, and it could be a costly journey.
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However, Mr Calder said that though prices may be high on the journeys that are available, there are still flights going.
“That’s the sort of prices you will have to pay,” he said.
“You are going to have to make your own arrangements if you don’t want to spend that then have a look at connecting flights.”
He added: “There are all sorts of possibilities but you have to get on the case.”
Once travellers arrive back on UK soil, they may be able to get their money back, though, given the unprecedented nature of this situation, it’s hard to know for certain if this is a possibility.
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“You’re going to have to sort that out with insurers or your travel company once the dust settles and you’re safely back,” he said.
“I’ve spoken to some people who have to spend their entire savings to get back.
“The Foreign Office in exceptional circumstances will give you an emergency loan.”
However, for those who simply don’t want to fly, there is little hope of getting a refund.
Mr Calder explained: “Airlines are still flying, the fact you don’t want to be on their flights is not their problem.”
The CAA issued advice on its website saying: “If are you currently abroad and your airline has suspended flights, your airline or travel company will make arrangements for you to return to the UK.
“In the first instance, please contact your airline or travel company for further information.”
It adds: “As part of its regulatory duties, the UK Civil Aviation Authority consistently monitors and prepares for a variety of scenarios.
“We are closely monitoring the evolution of the coronavirus situation and considering any required precautions to take.
“We have robust contingency measures in place to ensure continuity of our safety-critical regulatory business in the event of the spread of COVID-19.”
Meanwhile, Secretary of State Dominic Raab assured the government is working hard to look after Britons who are currently overseas.
In a speech in parliament yesterday he said: “In some countries or particular cases where there haven’t yet been any reported cases of COVID-19 local authorities are nonetheless imposing restrictions on movement, and again doing so with little or sometimes no notice whatsoever. In light of those circumstances, we want to reduce the risk of leaving vulnerable British travellers or tourists stranded overseas.”
The FCO is currently advising against “all but essential” travel overseas for the next 30 days.
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