Julia Hartley-Brewer grills Grant Shapps on travel rules
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Airlines found themselves mostly grounded amid the multiple lockdowns of the coronavirus pandemic. However, from May 17, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has expressed hopes some international travel will return with a “traffic light” system in place to categorise the “risk” countries pose to increasing the spread of infection globally.
Earlier in the week, the Global Travel Taskforce released a report into its framework.
The team are expected to meet on Monday to further discuss the possibility of opening up travel safely.
After his latest address to the nation, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he hasn’t “given up on May 17”.
Despite this, some airlines have made further changes to their plans to restart, amid the ongoing uncertainty.
Here are the latest updates for easyJet, Jet2, TUI and British Airways.
easyJet has continued to operate some flights throughout the pandemic, however, these are subject to change at short notice.
The airline’s package holidays arm easyJet holidays has cancelled all holiday plans up to May 17, in line with Government guidance.
In an update issued on April 9 regarding package holidays, the airline explained: “The government has shared a little bit more about how holidays can be restarted again and more about the introduction of a traffic light system.
“The government has also said it will share which traffic light colour destinations fall under in early May, so we’ll know even more then.
“In the meantime, if you’ve got a booking with us between May and August look out for an email with a reminder of the flexibility we offer under our Protection Promise.”
The airline developed a “Protection Promise” to allow more “flexibility” for customers with new and existing bookings.
This means holidays where there is a known quarantine requirement will be cancelled, and customers will be entitled to a full refund.
Holidaymakers can also cancel their holiday in exchange for a full refund as long as they do so up to 28 days before travel.
“Your refund will be free of fees, and unlike some holiday companies that will keep your deposit, if you book directly with us we’ll even give your deposit back to you as credit on your easyJet holidays online account,” explains the easyJet website.
Customers also have the choice of obtaining a voucher for the full value of their ticket which can be used towards future travel.
In anticipation of travel restarting, the orange-tipped carrier has boosted its itinerary with an array of new routes.
These include new routes and package holidays from Birmingham Airport to Spain, Portugal and Greece.
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Jet2 has made the decision to further axe holidays due to the ongoing “uncertainty” around travel.
The low-cost holiday provider has cancelled all flights and holidays until June 24.
Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, expressed his “disappointment” at the Government’s travel plans.
He said: “We have taken time to study the Global Travel Taskforce’s framework, and we are extremely disappointed at the lack of clarity and detail.
“After several weeks exploring how to restart international travel, with substantial assistance and input from the industry, the framework lacks any rigorous detail about how to get international travel going again. In fact, the framework is virtually the same as six months ago.”
He called for more clarity, stating: “Following the publication of the framework today, we still do not know when we can start to fly, where we can fly to and the availability and cost of testing. Rather than answering questions, the framework leaves everyone asking more.
The CEO continued: “Because of the continued uncertainty that the framework provides, it is with a heavy heart that we have taken the decision to extend the suspension of flights and holidays up to and including 23rd June 2021.”
Jet2 passengers impacted by cancellations will be offered a full refund of the amount paid.
The airline says it is in the process of contacting all customers to discuss their options.
Despite this, the airline has issued some positive updates too.
As of summer, Jet2 will operate a new route from Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol Airport’s to Innsbruck in Austria for summer 2022.
Jet2 and Jet2holidays have also announced the launch of flights and holidays to Sicily and Sardinia for summer 2022.
TUI has detailed plans to resume some travel from May 17 in line with Government guidelines.
In a statement on its website, issued on April 9, the airline explained: “Following the recent announcement from the UK government, customers travelling from England will be subject to a new traffic light system with ‘green’, ‘amber’ and ‘red’ destinations.
“It’s expected that international travel can resume from 17 May at the earliest.
“We review the information on this page in line with each government announcement and expect to know more within the next few weeks.”
TUI customers with new and existing bookings are protected by the airline’s “Holiday Promise”.
If Government, FCDO or quarantine rules impact holiday plans, customers will be entitled to change their booking to another date “for free” or receive a “full refund.”
TUI adds: “If we need to cancel your holiday for any of these reasons, you don’t need to do anything. We’ll work through bookings in departure date order to proactively contact you as soon as we can.”
Speaking on BBC Breakfast on Monday, managing director for TUI UK and Ireland, Andrew Flintham, showed hope for some destinations.
He said: “Cyprus has come out and been very positive, Greece and Turkey have come out and been very positive, and Spain again.
“So I think all these European countries, whilst to a degree they are struggling with their rates at the moment, we are still a significant period away from the summer season properly opening up, we are probably 11 weeks away.
“The world has been changing on a weekly basis, never mind an 11-weekly basis.
“So we are still positive about those destinations. We are also positive that the Caribbean and some of those destinations will open up.”
British Airways (BA) has continued to operate a “reduced” and “dynamic” service throughout the pandemic.
This means some flights may be cancelled or changed at short notice.
Customers with travel plans are advised to stay up-to-date with the latest flight information on the BA website.
The airline has cancelled all of its package holidays up to May 17.
A BA spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “All affected customers will be contacted and offered a refund.”
In a statement, the travel provider added: “If we cannot fulfil a holiday, we’re committed to ensuring customers receive a full refund within 14 days.
“Customers who are unable to travel, or choose not to, can continue to change their holiday without a change fee, or request a voucher for future use.”
The airline has also introduced its own “Protection Promise” to allow customers more “flexibility” when booking.
“Our book with confidence commitment means you have the option to change your booking date and destination or even cancel it completely,” explains the airline’s website.
For bookings made on or after March 3, 2020, for journeys that are due to have been completed by April 30, 2022, customers have the option to change their booking or cancel their booking in exchange for a voucher for future travel.
The airline also made the decision to extend its pause on short-haul operations out of Gatwick Airport.
Instead, the majority of these services will now operate from Heathrow.
Some long-haul and domestic routes from Gatwick will remain.
In a statement, the airline explained: “Until the end of October, most of our short-haul flights will continue to operate from Heathrow.
“This enables us to ensure a smooth, uninterrupted, and efficient operation across our business at a time when demand is yet to return and international travel restrictions remain in place.
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