Now more than FIFTY countries ban flights from UK

Britons hoping for a Christmas or New Year getaway were facing more travel misery yesterday after the number of countries banning flights from the UK rose above 50.

The Caribbean destinations of Jamaica, Grenada and the Dominican Republic were among the latest to shut their doors to UK travellers.

It means around 53 countries across five continents have either banned inbound flights or cut all passenger air travel with the UK since Sunday over the discovery of the mutant coronavirus strain.

Britons hoping for a Christmas or New Year getaway were facing more travel misery yesterday after the number of countries banning flights from the UK rose above 50

Britons hoping for a Christmas or New Year getaway were facing more travel misery yesterday after the number of countries banning flights from the UK rose above 50

Cancelled inbound flights have left thousands of Britons abroad facing huge anxiety about whether they can get back in time to see loved ones at Christmas

Cancelled inbound flights have left thousands of Britons abroad facing huge anxiety about whether they can get back in time to see loved ones at Christmas

Some countries extended their bans while others warned of stricter measures for allowing in travellers from the UK.

Belgium, the Netherlands, Greece and Cyprus, which are planning to lift their curbs, will require Britons to prove a pre-flight negative test and quarantine on arrival.

Ministers last night came under renewed pressure to ramp up general and in-airport testing capacity to ensure trips can go ahead. Stewart Wingate, Gatwick Airport chief executive, said: ‘Now, more than ever in this pandemic we need the Government to move swiftly and work with other countries to put in place a low cost, efficient and accurate pre-departure testing regime which is consistent for all international travel.’ Heathrow has also called for testing capacity to be boosted.

Cancelled inbound flights have left thousands of Britons abroad facing huge anxiety about whether they can get back in time to see loved ones at Christmas.

Airlines are dispatching empty flights to affected countries to ensure everyone who had return trips cancelled can get back. They are also offering flight changes free of charge. But many are facing longer waits to return and possibly missing spending the festive period with loved ones.

It is believed around 250,000 outbound and inbound travellers could be affected by the bans between now and January 1, with the travel sector taking a £400million hit. Industry figures said the number of bans was unprecedented. Paul Charles of travel consultancy The PC Agency said: ‘It’s destroying confidence in people booking. Each day you’re looking at about 10,000 people being affected by the bans.’

 

Ministers last night came under renewed pressure to ramp up general and in-airport testing capacity to ensure trips can go ahead

Ministers last night came under renewed pressure to ramp up general and in-airport testing capacity to ensure trips can go ahead

France and Germany have called for a more ‘coordinated’ EU-wide response to fighting the new variant.

Yesterday the EU’s executive arm, the European Commission, issued recommendations including that bans ‘of transport services, such as flight or train bans, should be discontinued’. It said ‘non-essential travel’ to and from Britain should be ‘discouraged’, but that European governments need to do more to ensure essential journeys can still be made.

But the decree is not legally binding so it is down to individual governments to decide what to do on their borders.

In another sign of the difficulty of getting the EU to agree to a unified response, Germany’s southern region of Bavaria announced its own measures for travellers arriving at Munich airport. Bavarian premier Markus Soder tweeted that holidaymakers would need to present a negative PCR test from the previous 48 hours, or agree to be immediately tested upon arrival.

Baroness Ruby McGregor-Smith, chairman of the Airport Operators Association, told the Mail the travel bans were ‘unfair and unjustified’. She called on ministers to strike agreements with countries to get the bans lifted and ramp up testing.

She said: ‘The message we’ve had since early summer is that we need testing at airports on all flights in and out of the country and the reasons we want capacity built is because of exactly what’s happened now.’

Our Madeira holiday turned into hellish ten-hour day trip

BY LIZZIE DEANE 

A couple had ‘a ten-hour day trip to Madeira’ after their flight landed on the Portuguese holiday island only for them to be told British travellers were barred.

Nikki and Max Wright couldn’t believe their luck when their British Airways flight took off from Heathrow on Monday morning, whisking them away on their Christmas break.

What they didn’t know was that the flight had gone ahead despite the Portuguese government imposing a travel ban on UK holidaymakers the night before.

Nikki and Max Wright couldn¿t believe their luck when their British Airways flight took off from Heathrow on Monday morning, whisking them away on their Christmas break

Nikki and Max Wright couldn’t believe their luck when their British Airways flight took off from Heathrow on Monday morning, whisking them away on their Christmas break

The couple, from Poole, Dorset, said that no sooner had they touched down on Madeira than the captain announced that the 25 British passengers on board were not allowed off the plane. Mrs Wright, 59, said she and her husband, 66, waited on the runway for three hours while about 100 Portuguese nationals were allowed off the flight and returning Britons got on. The plane then took them back to London.

Mrs Wright said the experience, which saw them sat on the plane for more than ten hours, was ‘unbelievable’. They spent £4,000 -plus on the flights and a week in a five-star hotel. ‘If we’d cancelled, we would have lost every penny,’ she said. ‘We assumed that BA would only go ahead with it if it was OK to do so.’

Mrs Wright said BA has told them they are not entitled to compensation, although their flights and holiday will be refunded.

BA said: ‘The flight departed before airlines received official notification of a change in entry requirements from the authorities.’

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Stuck in Italy… and now it’s a race to be back for Christmas 

BY KUMAIL JAFFER 

When he left the UK for his native Italy this month, Andrea Troiani planned to return in plenty of time to spend Christmas with his newly pregnant fiancée.

A fortnight later, the couple, who were meant to get married in July, are unsure if they will be together for the festivities.

Alison Beck, 44, who is nine weeks pregnant, said the situation was a ‘Kafkaesque series of unfortunate events all of which were entirely out of our control.’

Andrea Troiani, right, 49, flew to Rome on December 10 for his father's birthday and planned to return to the UK three days later to be his his pregnant fiancee Alison Beck, 44, left

Andrea Troiani, right, 49, flew to Rome on December 10 for his father’s birthday and planned to return to the UK three days later to be his his pregnant fiancee Alison Beck, 44, left

Mr Troiani, 49, flew to Rome on December 10 for his father’s birthday, planning to return three days later.

Though he scheduled a mandatory Covid-19 test at Fiumicino Airport, upon arrival passengers were told the tests were no longer being offered, Miss Beck said, meaning her fiance had to isolate for 14 days.

Miss Beck said: ‘The earliest he could fly back was Christmas Eve. Then this happened – we’re gutted.’ Mr Troiani’s flight has been cancelled, but he is now booked on a flight via Portugal on Thursday, as flights from Rome to Portugal and Portugal to Heathrow are still running.

Miss Beck said: ‘It’s upsetting but we are trying to be level-headed about it.’

Having met in Rome in 2017, the couple moved to Thorpe, in Surrey, two years ago, and had planned to tie the knot in July.

‘All of our families live overseas, so we postponed the wedding,’ she added.

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