More holiday chaos for Scots as firms cancel flights to Spain and package deals : International de Inglaterra
Travel firms have started cancelling more trips to Spain following the sudden change in quarantine rules in Scotland and the rest of the UK.
Companies say they have been forced to react to ensure their customers do not lose travel insurance.
But some firms say they will continue operating flights and holidays to areas in the country that have not been heavily affected by Covid-19.
TUI last night axed all flights to Spain due to leave on Sunday after the Scottish and UK Government’s made their abrupt U-turn and imposed quarantine restrictions on tourists returning home.
And Europe’s largest holiday firm has now cancelled all trips to mainland Spain for two weeks.
However, the firm said all those going to the Balearic and Canary Islands could still travel as planned from Monday, although flights before then are cancelled.
A spokesman said: “Due to travel advice change against all but essential travel to mainland Spain TUI UK have taken the decision to cancel all holidays to mainland Spain up to and including Sunday 9th August 2020.
“We know how much our customers look forward to their holiday abroad and some will be able to accommodate the new quarantine restrictions, therefore all those that wish to travel to the Balearic Islands and Canary Islands will be able to travel as planned from Monday 27th July.
The Scottish and UK Governments have removed Spain from their list of safe countries to travel to after fears were raised of a second wave of coronavirus infections in the tourist hotspot.
It means those returning from Spain will have to self-isolate for two weeks upon their return home.
Here is what it means for holidaymakers:
When will holidaymakers have to self-isolate?
The measure came into effect from midnight on Saturday, meaning that from Sunday all returning travellers will have to quarantine themselves for 14 days.
It applies to people returning to any of the four nations of the UK – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Why is it being brought in now?
The Scottish and UK Government say the move follows a “significant change” over the last week in both the level and pace of change in confirmed cases of Covid-19 in Spain.
The country has reported more than 900 new daily infections for the past two days.
Catalonia became the latest region to crack down on nightlife, trying to halt new infection clusters.
The wealthy north-east region – home to Barcelona – ordered all nightclubs to close for 15 days and put a midnight curfew on bars in the greater Barcelona area and other towns around Lleida that have become contagion hot zones.
What should people do if they are already in Spain?
People currently on holiday in Spain have been encouraged to follow the local rules, return home as normal and check the Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s (FCO) travel advice pages on gov.uk for further information.
The FCO is not advising those already travelling in Spain to leave.
Abta – the UK’s travel trade association – has advised customers in the country to continue their holidays and return as normal.
What should holidaymakers do if they have a trip to Spain booked?
The FCO is advising against all but essential travel to mainland Spain.
Holiday operator Tui has said it will cancel all planned holidays to Spain in response to the announcement and customers will be contacted to discuss options.
Abta has advised customers due to travel to the country imminently to contact their travel provider.
Does the quarantine apply if the holidaymaker has been to a Spanish island?
Quarantine measures will apply to those returning from mainland Spain, the Canary Islands (Tenerife, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, La Palma, La Gomera, El Hierro and La Graciosa) and the Balearic Islands, such as Majorca and Ibiza, the Department for Transport confirmed.
What will happen with travel insurance?
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has said it is “likely” that travel insurance will remain in place for holidaymakers already in Spain until they return home.
However, those attempting to travel to countries against FCO advice would invalidate their travel insurance.
The ABI said people who booked a trip or took out travel insurance after Covid-19 was declared a pandemic may not be covered for travel disruption or cancellation. In either circumstance, travellers should check with their insurer.
What about employers whose employees have to go into quarantine?
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said no worker following quarantine guidance should be penalised by employers, including by being put onto sick pay.
He said that if someone is following the law in relation to quarantine and self-isolating, “they can’t have penalties taken against them”.
Labour wants the Government to do more to help quarantining employees.
The conciliation service Acas has advised employees returning from Spain to talk to their employer as soon as possible.
It said unless employees are actually ill, they are unlikely to qualify for statutory sick pay – although an employer could still offer to pay this if it wanted to.
If they have previously been furloughed, they could agree to a further period of furlough to cover the isolation period. Or they could agree a further period of annual leave, a period of unpaid leave or a mix of the two.
“Customers due to travel to all areas of Spain between 27th July and Sunday 9th August will be able to cancel or amend holidays and will be able to receive a full refund or the option to rebook their holiday with a booking incentive.”
It also said holidaymakers currently in the country should continue with their holiday.
Meanwhile, Jet 2 has advised customers to arrive for their flights as normal and will continue to operate its scheduled programme with flights to and from mainland Spain, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands.
A statement read: “We are still operating flights and holidays to four destinations in mainland Spain (Costa de Almeria, Alicante, Malaga and Murcia), which are open and are located away from areas which have been impacted by increased cases of Covid-19.
“In light of the updated advice from the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), we are in the process of reviewing options for customers due to travel to these four destinations.
“We are also continuing to operate flights and holidays to our destinations in the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands as scheduled.
“Because the FCO travel advice to these destinations remains unchanged, our usual terms and conditions apply. As always, we advise customers to purchase appropriate travel insurance before travelling.”
EasyJet, meanwhile, has cancelled all package holidays to Spain but flights will still operate.
The airline said it had taken the decision to scrap all package holidays to mainland Spain, the Canary Islands, and the Balearic Islands until July 31.
Matt Callaghan, customer director of easyJet holidays, said: “We’re really sorry for any disappointment caused to customers due to travel to mainland Spain, the Canary Islands, and the Balearic Islands in the next few weeks.
“We have taken the decision to cancel holidays to these destinations when we restart our operations on August 1.
“This is in line with one of our key commitments to only operate to countries where we believe customers can have a safe and enjoyable holiday.
“We’ve contacted affected customers already and will process a refund for them which will be available very shortly should they wish to book another holiday.
“We also have a very flexible approach for customers with existing bookings who are feeling unsure about travelling and will support with free changes to their booking up to 28 days before departure and wherever we can in other circumstances.”
The move to restrict holidays to Spain has been criticised by the Spanish Government.
Spain’s foreign minister said all localised outbreaks of Covid-19 in the country are under control.
Arancha Gonzalez Laya said: “Spain is a safe country for tourist and for Spaniards.
“Like in any other European country we are seeing outbreaks – the outbreaks in Spain are perfectly controlled.”
She said there were currently three major localised outbreaks, including one in Barcelona, adding: “All of them are perfectly traced.
“Half of those that are Covid-positive in Spain are asymptomatic, which gives a very clear indication of the huge efforts that all the regions or Spain are undertaking to test its citizens for Covid-19.
“Once they are identified they are being subject to very strict social distancing measures, so Spain is safe.”
Rory Boland, editor of consumer magazine Which? Travel, criticised the UK Government over the way the decision was handled. He said: “Many holidaymakers will be deeply angry that the Government didn’t make this decision 48 hours ago, before tens of thousands of them flew off for their summer holidays in Spain.
“Many would not have travelled if they had known they’d face 14 days of quarantine on their return.”
He called on the Government to give ” urgent clarity” in its travel advice covering travel to Spain “as this will have a more serious impact and may require tour operators to bring holidaymakers home early at a time when they are already under huge financial strain”.
Mr Boland warned: “For those with future bookings to Spain, many tour operators are now likely to cancel holidays.”
The quick turnaround even caught out Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, who is currently in Spain for his summer break and will join thousands of others in being forced to self-isolate for a fortnight on his return to Britain.
Raab told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme: “The data we got was on the Friday, it showed a big jump right across mainland Spain.
“That was then assessed yesterday afternoon and we took the decision as swiftly as we could and we can’t make apologies for doing so.”
Mr Raab added: “We’ve always said, as we come through the lockdown, we would need to take targeted measures.
“If we can’t do that, the risk is the virus gets back hold in the UK, the damage to the economy of a second lockdown and I think a blow to public confidence.
“So, yes, these measures are decisive and swift and, as a result of that, inconvenient for those going through them … but they are absolutely necessary.”
The First Secretary of State conceded there was an “element of personal responsibility” involved when telling those arriving from Spain to self-isolate but stressed there were “penalties for non-compliance”.
Ministers in Scotland said they took the decision to impose restrictions again to reduce the risk of the transmission of the virus.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “The decision to exempt Spain earlier this week, was taken when the data showed there was an improvement in the spread of the virus.
“But clearly the latest data has given us cause for concern to overturn that decision.
“We appreciate that this will be disappointing. However, we have always been clear we are closely monitoring the pandemic situation in all countries and that we may require to remove a country from the list of places exempt from quarantine requirements should the virus show a resurgence.
“It is still active and it is still deadly. Supressing the virus, preventing it from being transmitted and protecting public health is our priority.”
The quarantine U-turn comes as Scotland recorded just four new cases of coronavirus in 24 hours as no new deaths were reported for the 10th day in a row on Sunday.
Scottish Government data that just 0.2% of the 9,106 tests done in the preceding day came back positive.
In England, a further nine people who tested positive for coronavirus have died in hospital.
Britain has been the hardest-hit country in Europe by the pandemic with more than 50,000 dying while Spain was also badly affected, with more than 290,000 cases and over 28,000 deaths.