Air Passenger Rights Following Cancellations & Delays
Holidaymakers are facing flight cancellations and lengthy delays as airlines and airports struggle to meet demand. If your flight is affected, you are entitled to support and financial redress. But the rules are complex, taking into account the length of delay and the journey distance. For a comprehensive look at your rights, please visit our dedicated page.
16 September: ONS Finds Summer Flights Plagued By Cancellation And Disruption
In a survey of 4,963 households covering the period of 31 August to 11 September, the Office for National Statistics found that over a quarter of international travellers in the past 12 weeks experienced some form of disruption.
The official UK data gatherer asked all adults in the sample whether they have travelled abroad in the past 12 weeks. It also asked about any disruption experienced while travelling abroad, and the nature of this disruption.
It found that around a quarter (27%) of adults travelled abroad in the past 12 weeks. Of those, around nine in 10 (87%) travelled by plane, 24% by train and 14% by boats or ferries.
Of those who travelled abroad in the past 12 weeks, around a quarter (27%) said they had experienced some form of disruption. Of those travelling by plane:
- 76% experienced delayed flights or more waiting time on the plane
- 39% reported longer than normal queues at the airport
- 33% reported cancellation of flights
- 20% said they experienced longer waits for luggage.
Most UK airports have experienced short-notice cancellations, delays and general disruption since the relaxation of Covid restrictions in the spring.
Problems have arisen because of problems recruiting and training staff to replace those who were made redundant when Covid lockdowns and international travel bans effectively shut down the passenger airline industry in 2020.
16 September: Spain Extends Covid Entry Requirements To November
UK travellers to Spain will still have to meet strict Covid-19 entry requirements until at least 15 November after the Spanish authorities extended their current regime for non-EU countries.
This means that, if you are travelling to Spain, you must:
- be fully vaccinated
- present a negative COVID-19 test (either a PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to departure, or an antigen test taken within 24 hours prior to departure)
- have recovered from COVID-19 in the last six months, with a medical certificate or recovery record to that effect.
These rules apply to those aged 12 and over.
The announcement means the rules will be in place for the October half-term break. You can find out more here about entry requirements for Spain.
UPDATE 15 September: How Travel Emerged From Covid Shutdown In 2022
Families and travellers aged 35 and older opted for long haul trips to far-flung destinations in the first half of 2022, despite the expense, while empty nesters stuck to trips closer to home.
The findings come from travel insurance sister brands CoverForYou and Cedar Tree.
A third brand from the same group, Outbacker, found that backpackers, gap year students, and those able to carry out their jobs remotely have swapped traditionally popular destinations such as the USA, Mexico and Dominican Republic for South Asia, and are taking shorter trips, writes Candiece Cyrus.
The cost of living crisis and flight cancellations and operational chaos at UK airports, caused by airport and airline staff cuts during the pandemic, did not deter families and travellers aged 35 and older from travelling to long haul destinations.
CoverForYou’s target group is families and travellers aged 35 and above. It says destinations such as the USA, Mexico, Jamaica, Canada and the Dominican Republic leapt in popularity by 45% from January to June this year, compared to the same period in 2019.
Spain and the Canary Islands, Greece and Cyprus remained the most popular with the firm’s customers, but only saw a 5% increase in travel insurance purchases in the first six months of this year compared to the same period in 2019.
Generally, there seems to have been a rise in consumer confidence from travellers aged 26 and above this year, according to CoverForYou. Insurance policy sales peaked for this age group during the typical busy booking season of January despite pandemic border restrictions still in place in the UK at the time.
For the typical Cedar Tree customer – an empty nester, aged in their late 40s to 65 – destinations such as the USA, Mexico, Jamaica and Canada and Dominican Republic dropped in popularity by 89% between January and June, with the Greek Islands proving popular.
Countries such as Italy, France and Portugal that used to be the mainstays of holidays for both CoverForYou and CedarTree customers have seen an 18% dip in popularity for CoverForYou customers in the first six months of this year compared to 2019. This rises to 39% for Cedar Tree customers during the same period.
Outbacker says demand for travel insurance purchases is on the rise among backpackers, students taking gap years and remote workers carrying out their jobs from abroad.
In particular, they increased by 72% for 17 to 21-year-olds in the first six months of this year compared to 2019 and spiked at 248% in June, compared to May.
Neil Wright, Outbacker’s managing director, said: “Traditionally, younger backpackers would take off in January when they’d had a good six-months, once school finished, to save money to fund their trip. What we’re now seeing is these travel norms disappearing. Instead, people are taking immediate advantage of the world having opened up.
“But with this adventurer mentality comes unprecedented levels of caution. Gone are the days of travel insurance being a last-minute purchase, these days all breeds of traveller are adding insurance as a necessary, well-researched item on their travel checklist.”
Travel insurance purchases also rose by 96% for 22-25-year-olds and 23% for travellers aged 26 and above, perhaps suggesting that remote working, which was necessary for many companies during the pandemic, continues, and is allowing workers to carry out their jobs while abroad.
Whatever the age and purpose for travel, these travellers seem to be more keen to go to South East Asia over the traditionally popular destinations of the USA, Canada, Mexico and Europe.
Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Indonesia and Malaysia saw the biggest leap in insurance purchases across all Outbacker travellers, at 200%, with 69% of Outbacker travellers favouring these destinations the most from January to June this year, compared to only 47% the same time in 2019.
These travellers also seemed to be more cautious about how long they booked away. Pre-pandemic, between January and June 2019, Outbacker found travellers took trips for over 200 days on average. From January to June this year the average number of days dropped to 126.
UPDATE 23 August: BA Slashes Winter Services
British Airways will cancel around 5,000 return-trip short-haul journeys in the months from October to March 2023, mainly from Heathrow, with Gatwick and London City also affected. The figure represents about 8% of its normal schedule.
Thousands of flights by BA and other airlines have already been cancelled in recent months.
Heathrow has separately imposed a 100,000 limit on the number of passengers it will handle per day until 29 October (see below).
BA says flights are being reduced because of lack of staff to handle passenger numbers. This is a legacy of lay-offs during pandemic shut-downs, and difficulties in recruiting staff and processing their security clearances and training requirements.
The airline says announcing cancellations in advance reduces short-notice cuts to services and reduces disruption and delays. It is giving passengers advance notice so that alternative arrangements can be made.
Customers affected by a cancellation will be offered (as is their legal right) an alternative flight, either with BA or another airline, or provided with a full refund if they prefer.
UPDATE 16 August: Heathrow Extends Cap On Passenger Numbers
Heathrow is extending its 100,000-per-day cap on passengers using the airport to 29 October. The limit was originally scheduled to end on 11 September, but will now run until the end of the summer season, which includes the autumn half-term school holiday.
It says the move will provide passengers with confidence ahead of their half-term getaways because it reduces the likelihood of services being cancelled at short notice. Earlier in the summer, Heathrow was overstretched by 104,000 customers using it daily, with disruption and cancellations causing passenger misery.
Heathrow’s argument is that, by better balancing passenger demand with available resources, it is able to operate a “safe airport ecosystem” that prioritises passenger needs. It says the cap has resulted in fewer last-minute cancellations, better punctuality and shorter waits for bags.
Several other airports, including Gatwick, Frankfurt and Schiphol, have also put in place equivalent capacity limits. Schiphol has also extended its cap through to the end of October.
The decision to extend the Heathrow cap was taken after consultation with airlines. The capacity limits will be kept under regular review and could be lifted earlier should there be an improvement in capacity, notably through increased recruitment at airline ground handlers.
Ross Baker, Heathrow’s chief commercial officer, said: “Our primary concern is ensuring we give our passengers a reliable service when they travel. That’s why we introduced temporary capacity limits in July which have already improved journeys during the summer getaway.
“We want to remove the cap as soon as possible, but we can only do so when we are confident that everyone operating at the airport has the resources to deliver the service our passengers deserve.”
UPDATE 3 August: British Airways Suspends Ticket Sales For Short-Haul Flight Out Of Heathrow
British Airways has suspended the sale of tickets for short-haul and domestic flights from Heathrow until 15 August, writes Candiece Cyrus.
The move comes after Heathrow imposed a 100,000 daily cap on the number of passengers that could leave the west London airport between 12 July and 11 September, requesting that airlines curb ticket sales during this period to combat long queue times, delays and last-minute cancellations.
British Airways said the latest suspension of short-haul ticket sales would free up extra seats, so that existing customers who experience operational disruption have a better chance of rebooking.
The airline said the decision was part of, “pre-emptive action to reduce our schedule this summer to give customers certainty about their travel plans and to build more resilience into our operation given the ongoing challenges facing the entire aviation industry.”
A spokesperson said: “We’ll continue to manage bookings to be within the Heathrow imposed cap so we can get our customers away as planned this summer.”
Airports and airlines have struggled with increasing demand for travel since the Easter period when Covid-related travel restrictions were lifted in the UK.
Last month, Emirates paused the sale of new tickets for flights out of Heathrow until mid-August, having initially rejected the airport’s demand to reduce capacity over the summer.
1 August: France Lifts All Covid Border Restrictions
From today, travellers visiting France can do so free from any Covid-related restrictions, writes Candiece Cyrus.
Travellers arriving in France will no longer be required to present proof of vaccination status or fill out any ‘justification for travel’ forms. Nor will they be required to present proof of a negative PCR or antigen test upon arrival.
The removal of all restrictions also applies to those visiting French overseas territories, such as the island of Martinique and the archipelago of Guadeloupe in the West Indies, from France.
The French Embassy tweeted: “From today (1 August), you can enter France without undergoing border health checks.
“You no longer have to take a test before going to France if you are unvaccinated.”
France joins Portugal, Malta and Greece on the growing list of popular holiday destinations that have dropped all Covid-related travel restrictions.
23 July: Dover Disruption May Trigger Insurance Claims
Europe-bound ferry passengers suffering long delays at the Channel port of Dover this weekend may be able to claim on their travel insurance if they miss their booking.
Some policies include provision for claiming back the cost of rebooking onto another service, as well as the cost of emergency accommodation, up to a stated limit. Policies may also pay out a cash sum to anyone delayed for more than 12 hours.
The huge queues of traffic outside the port have led to reported delays of up to seven hours for car passengers, while lorries have been parked up overnight on roads leading to the area. This has exacerbated the situation, with those heading to the port for bookings this weekend having to negotiate lengthy diversions.
Travellers heading to the Eurotunnel facility at Folkestone are also experiencing delays and disruption due to traffic bottlenecks and diversions, particularly on the M20.
The cause of the disruption at Dover is disputed, with the UK government claiming French passport booths at the port are under-staffed. The French authorities say their personnel have themselves been caught up in the travel chaos and have been delayed in reaching their posts.
There are also claims that added bureaucracy created by Brexit has slowed the flow of traffic through the port and onto ferries.
The two governments say they are working urgently to ease the gridlock, which is also a consequence in a surge of holidaymakers heading to Europe at the start of the school summer holidays.
Anyone stuck in traffic trying to get a cross-channel ferry may be able to claim on their travel insurance – the relevant sections are ‘Missed departure’ and ‘Travel delay’.
If you miss your booked ferry slot and the ferry provider won’t move your booking to a later departure gratis, you may be able to claim for the cost of re-booking it yourself. Policies provide a fixed maximum amount you can claim for missed departure – say, £500 – but you can only claim back what you spend.
If you need to pay for accommodation because of the delay, that can be added to the amount, but again, there’ll be a ceiling on the amount you can claim.
It is important to keep receipts to support any claim you make.
The travel delay section of a policy kicks in if you are delayed by a certain amount of time – usually 12 hours. You’ll then be able to claim a cash amount – say, £25 – and then additional amounts depending on how long the delays endure, up to a maximum of perhaps £100. Hopefully nobody will be in the jams for that long.
Policies also include provision for abandoning a holiday if the delay to departure lasts for 24 hours. That might mean you could reclaim the cost of any accommodation you have booked in Europe if you decide, after a lengthy delay, to turn around and head back home.
The exact provision of cover varies from policy to policy, so it’s important to check your policy details to see where you stand.
22 July: BA Heathrow Staff Accept Pay Offer, Call Off Strike
Check-in staff employed by British Airways at Heathrow airport have called off the threat of strike action after accepting a ‘significant’ pay offer worth a total of 13%.
Staff voted for industrial action when British Airways refused to reinstate a 10% pay cut imposed during the pandemic. But BA’s latest offer has now been accepted.
Sharon Graham, general secretary of the Unite union representing 500 staff, said: “This is a great result for our check-in members at British Airways. By standing together, they have forced a corporate giant like BA to do the right thing and restore levels of pay slashed in the pandemic.”
The offer will be paid in several stages. In addition to the increase in pay rates, shift pay reductions that were introduced in 2020 will be reversed from October 2022.
A spokesperson for the airline was reported by the BBC as saying British Airways is delighted with the outcome of the negotiations.
21 July: Heathrow Refuelling Staff Call Off Pay Strike
Refuelling staff at Heathrow airport have called off a strike that was due to start today following an improved pay offer from their employer.
The move will save disruption to hundreds of flights from airlines including Air France, American Airlines, Delta, Emirates, KLM, Singapore, United and Virgin Atlantic, writes Candiece Cyrus.
Staff at Aviation Fuel Services (AFS) were due to strike from 5am today (Thursday 21 July) to 4.59am on Sunday 24 July.
Kevin Hall, regional officer at Unite, the union representing the workers, said: “Unite has consistently said that AFS was capable of making an offer more likely to meet members’ expectations. Following the assistance of the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service, an improved offer was made.”
Unite says AFS workers will receive a 12.5% rise, increase in weekend overtime rates plus £2,500 bonus
AFS refuels 50% of the non-British Airways traffic at Heathrow airport, according to Unite. The union says its AFS members have not received a pay rise in three years. During this time it says staff have seen their incomes fall by 15.5% in real terms.
The Union said that AFS had previously offered a 10% pay increase but this was rejected by workers as inadequate.
17 July: Govt Publishes Charter To Codify Air Passenger Rights
The government today published an Aviation Passenger Charter which sets out an individual’s rights in the event of cancellation and delay when flying.
The charter covers:
- planning and booking your trip
- travel to and through the airport
- taking your flight and returning to the UK
- what to do if things don’t go as planned.
It also covers what passengers can expect from their airline, travel agent, tour operator and airport, and sets out best practice in terms of how passengers should be treated.
Additionally, it makes clear that passengers have a responsibility to take with them everything they need for their journey, such as passports and travel documentation for their destination (including any Covid tests or certification).
Travellers are also expected to tell their airline and airport in advance of travel if they have special requirements, such as assistance with disability and mobility.
The specifications of the charter include:
- terms and conditions of any booking must be available at the time of making the booking from the airline, travel agent or tour operator. They must be clear and easy to understand and easy to find. They must provide clear information on what to do in the case of cancellations, date changes and if you need to rebook.
- airlines must provide a breakdown of all taxes and charges included in a ticket.
- airlines and travel agents selling flight tickets should make clear at the time of booking whether there are any additional charges for optional extras, for example, luggage allowance, and seat selection.
- no additional charges should be added to your booking for special assistance for disabled and less mobile passengers, or for carrying medical equipment and up to two pieces of mobility equipment per passenger.
The charter recommends that passengers have adequate travel insurance: “You should check what cover is provided, including medical treatment, travel disruption, industrial action, airline failure and planned activities such as adventure sports as appropriate.
“Ideally travel insurance should be taken, at the time of booking or as soon after as possible, to ensure you are covered in the event of any issues ahead of your journey, for example in case you need to cancel.
“You should check the terms and conditions of your insurance cover and ensure you understand what is excluded from the cover. This should be set out clearly in the insurance policy document.”
Passengers are also urged to apply for a UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) which lets you get state healthcare in Europe at a reduced cost or sometimes for free. You will still need adequate travel insurance in addition to the GHIC.
The charter also includes extensive information on the rights of those with disability, reduced mobility or illness.
It also confirms what is payable in compensation in the event of cancellation or delay.
17 July: ‘Airmageddon’ On Hold As Emirates, Heathrow Make Peace
Dubai-based airlines Emirates and Heathrow Airport have issued a joint statement to say they will work together to manage passenger numbers over the summer. Any Emirates passengers who have already booked their flights will be able to travel as planned.
However, no new tickets will be sold for Emirates flights out of Heathrow until mid August.
Last week saw a bitter dispute erupt between the two parties, with Emirates warning of ‘airmageddon’ because of Heathrow’s ‘incompetence and inaction’ regarding the recruitment of staff to handle demand (see story below).
Emirates, which runs six long-haul flights out of Heathrow daily, each with passenger capacity over 500, reacted furiously to Heathrow’s plan to cap passenger numbers at 100,000 a day until 11 September, which would involve airlines stopping selling tickets and possibly turning booked passengers away.
Heathrow says action is required to minimise the likelihood of last-minute cancellations, severe delays and problems with security and baggage-handling.
The joint statement, issued after a meeting between Emirates Airlines President Sir Tim Clark KBE and Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye, said: “Emirates agreed the airline was ready and willing to work with the airport to remediate the situation over the next 2 weeks, to keep demand and capacity in balance and provide passengers with a smooth and reliable journey through Heathrow this summer.
“Emirates has capped further sales on its flights out of Heathrow until mid-August to assist Heathrow in its resource ramp-up, and is working to adjust capacity.
“In the meantime, Emirates flights from Heathrow operate as scheduled and ticketed passengers may travel as booked.”
14 July: Emirates Slams Heathrow Cuts, Warns Of ‘Airmageddon’
Emirates, the Dubai-based airline, has called Heathrow Airport’s decision to reduce capacity over the summer “entirely unreasonable and unacceptable” and says it will reject the demands, which show “blatant disregard” for consumers.
Heathrow is capping passenger numbers at 100,000 per day until 11 September – it has recently been seeing 104,000 passengers a day and has struggled to cope with the numbers. It has asked airlines to stop selling tickets on upcoming flights to reduce footfall.
Emirates says it was given 36 hours to comply with capacity cuts “of a figure that appears to be plucked from thin air. Their (Heathrow’s) communications not only dictated the specific flights on which we should throw out paying passengers, but also threatened legal action for non-compliance.
“This is entirely unreasonable and unacceptable, and we reject these demands.”
The airline says its Heathrow-based ground-handling and catering operation is capable of handling its flights: “So the crux of the issue lies with the central services and systems which are the responsibility of the airport operator.”
Emirates says other airports and airlines are at full stretch across the summer, so passengers cannot be reallocated to other flights. It adds that 70% of its Heathrow customers travel beyond Dubai “and it will be impossible to find them new onward connections at short notice.”
The airline’s statement says: “The bottom line is, the (Heathrow) management team are cavalier about travellers and their airline customers. All the signals of a strong travel rebound were there, and for months, Emirates has been publicly vocal about the matter. We planned ahead to get to a state of readiness to serve customers and travel demand.
“Heathrow chose not to act, not to plan, not to invest. Now faced with an “airmageddon” situation due to their incompetence and non-action, they are pushing the entire burden – of costs and the scramble to sort the mess – to airlines and travellers.
“The shareholders of London Heathrow should scrutinise the decisions of the LHR management team.
The Department for Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority have asked Heathrow to explain the cap of 100,000 daily passengers.
Emirates says that, until further notice, it plans to operate as scheduled to and from LHR.
12 July: Heathrow Imposes Cap On Passengers Until 11 September
Heathrow Airport has today introduced a cap on the number of passengers it can handle each day. It says airlines have not cut enough services from their summer schedules after a request from the government to reduce flights and cut the risk of last-minute cancellations, writes Kevin Pratt.
From 12 July until 11 September, the daily cap on passengers will be 100,000, which is 4,000 lower than the airport’s estimate of volumes for the days concerned. Heathrow is asking airlines to stop selling tickets for flights during the period.
Heathrow yesterday warned of likely disruption over the summer (see story below), despite the government ‘amnesty’ on airlines cancelling flights meaning they would not lose valuable airport slots as a result.
John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow chief executive, said: “Over the past few weeks, as departing passenger numbers have regularly exceeded 100,000 a day, we have started to see periods when service drops to a level that is not acceptable: long queue times, delays for passengers requiring assistance, bags not travelling with passengers or arriving late, low punctuality and last-minute cancellations.
“This is due to a combination of reduced arrivals punctuality (as a result of delays at other airports and in European airspace) and increased passenger numbers starting to exceed the combined capacity of airlines, airline ground handlers and the airport. Our colleagues are going above and beyond to get as many passengers away as possible, but we cannot put them at risk for their own safety and wellbeing.
“Last month, the Department for Transport and the Civil Aviation Authority wrote to the sector asking us all to review our plans for the summer and ensure we were prepared to manage expected passenger levels safely and minimise further disruption. Ministers subsequently implemented a slot amnesty programme to encourage airlines to remove flights from their schedules with no penalty. We held off putting additional controls on passenger numbers until this amnesty process concluded last Friday and we had a clearer view of the reductions that airlines have made.
“Some airlines have taken significant action, but others have not, and we believe that further action is needed now to ensure passengers have a safe and reliable journey. We have therefore made the difficult decision to introduce a capacity cap with effect from 12 July to 11 September. Similar measures to control passenger demand have been implemented at other airports both in the UK and around the world.
“Our assessment is that the maximum number of daily departing passengers that airlines, airline ground handlers and the airport can collectively serve over the summer is no more than 100,000. The latest forecasts indicate that, even despite the amnesty, daily departing seats over the summer will average 104,000 – giving a daily excess of 4,000 seats.
“On average only about 1,500 of these 4,000 daily seats have currently been sold to passengers, and so we are asking our airline partners to stop selling summer tickets to limit the impact on passengers.”
Mr Holland-Kaye says the action taken today is designed to protect flights for the majority of passengers at Heathrow but added: “We recognise that this will mean some summer journeys will either be moved to another day, another airport or be cancelled, and we apologise to those whose travel plans are affected.”
11 July: Heathrow Warns Of Potential Continued Disruption Despite Govt Intervention
Heathrow has warned of possible further disruption this summer despite the government taking action to allow airlines to reschedule their flights without penalty, writes Candiece Cyrus.
The news comes on the day the airport cancelled a further 60-plus flights because of lack of capacity to handle passengers.
Last month the government implemented a ‘slot amnesty’ which gave airlines until last Friday (8 June) to remove flights from their schedules without losing the ability to use the airport a set number of days a year (see more in ‘4 July’ entry below).
The government also told airlines to give passengers at least 14 days’ notice of cancellations to help limit disruption during the busy summer period.
However, John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow chief executive, warned the measure may not be enough to end the chaos: “We will review the schedule changes that airlines have submitted in response to the government’s requirement to minimise disruption for passengers this summer and will ask them to take further action if necessary.
“We want everyone who is travelling through Heathrow to be confident that they will have a safe and reliable journey.”
The airport has blamed ongoing travel delays and cancellations on the recent surge in passenger numbers, saying the growth in the past four months is equal to that in the previous 40 years
The airport says it started recruiting in November last year in anticipation of demand for travel recovering over this summer, but its staff numbers still do not match pre-pandemic levels.
7 July: British Airways Axes 10,000-Plus Short-Haul Flights
British Airways has responded to a government amnesty on flight cancellations by cutting a reported 10,300 short-haul flights from its schedule between August and October, writes Kevin Pratt.
As reported below, the government has given airlines until tomorrow (Friday) to announce cancellations without risking losing their reserved slots at UK airports. Normally, if an airline repeated cancels flights, it can lose its slot and thus its ability to operate a particular route from a given airport.
British Airways says it is taking the drastic action so that it can consolidate operations and provide certainty to passengers with bookings.
Travellers who are affected will be contacted with alternative flight arrangements with BA or another carrier, or they will be offered a refund.
If notice of cancellation is given more than 14 days before scheduled departure, there is no entitlement to compensation.
In a statement quoted in the Evening Standard, BA said: “The whole aviation industry continues to face into significant challenges and we’re completely focussed on building resilience into our operation to give customers the certainty they deserve.
“The Government recently decided to give the whole industry slot alleviation to minimise potential disruption this summer. While taking further action is not where we wanted to be, it’s the right thing to do for our customers and our colleagues.
“This new flexibility means that we can further reduce our schedule and consolidate some of our quieter services so that we can protect as many of our holiday flights as possible.
“While most of our flights are unaffected and the majority of customers will get away as planned, we don’t underestimate the impact this will have and we’re doing everything we can to get their travel plans back on track.
“We’re in touch to apologise and offer rebooking options for new flights with us or another airline as soon as possible or issue a full refund.”
In common with its rivals, BA has been plagued by staff shortages as demand for international travel has picked up following pandemic shutdowns.
4 July: Deadline Nears For Flights Scheduling Amnesty
With air passengers facing the threat of cancellations and disruption this summer, the government has given airlines until Friday to adjust their schedules to show fewer flights without their reserved airport slots being put at risk.
It is also requiring airlines to tell affected passengers at least two weeks ahead of a cancelled flight.
The ‘amnesty’ on the possibility of losing valuable slots was announced to “help airlines make sensible decisions about schedules, avoiding last-minute cancellations and providing passengers with more certainty” (see story below).
Under the terms of the amnesty, airlines should return slots at least 14 days before use, so they can be reallocated to other airlines to use throughout the summer. They will subsequently be returned to the original airline.
Slots grant an airline permission to use an airport a given number of times a year, but they can be withdrawn if the airline repeatedly cancels flights.
Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines UK the trade body for UK-registered airlines welcomed the plans. He said: “We will continue to work with ministers and the whole aviation ecosystem to ensure the summer peak runs as smoothly as possible for our passengers.”
1 July: Govt Unveils 22-Point Plans To Cut Airport Chaos
The government has announced a 22-point plan to help tackle disruption at UK airports, as the demand for travel continues to grow leading up to the summer holidays.
In the latest of a catalogue of events to blight customers, Heathrow cancelled 30 flights yesterday (Thursday).
Announcing the initiative on Twitter, Grant Shapps MP, transport secretary said: “Holidaymakers deserve certainty ahead of their first summer getaways free of restrictions. That’s why today I’ve set out 22 measures to support the aviation industry to minimise disruption and protect passengers – helping with everything from recruitment to scheduling.”
The measures include an expectation from the government and the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) that summer schedules will be reviewed to ensure they are deliverable, with passengers informed promptly of their rights and compensated if something goes wrong with their booking.
Airlines will also have more freedom to cancel flights in advance, if they cannot operate them.
The government will launch a new Aviation Passenger Charter, to inform passengers of their “rights, responsibilities and what they can reasonably expect of the aviation industry when flying”.
It has put forward proposals for strengthening consumer protection for customers, including increasing the CAA’s role in enforcement.
Airlines have been reminded of their legal responsibilities to provide “information, care and assistance, refunds, and compensation”.
To help speed up processing and reduce queues and delays, the government and CAA will launch a campaign of information so customers know what is expected of them prior to departure.
Richard Moriarty, head of the CAA, said: “We share government’s ambitions for resolving the travel issues we’ve seen in previous months. These actions will help the sector be more resilient in dealing with strong consumer demand.
“We will work alongside government and the wider industry to help deliver a better experience for passengers”
24 June: Looming Strikes Threaten Summer Holidays Turmoil
British Airways (BA) staff at Heathrow airport, as well as easyJet staff in Spain, are planning strikes for the peak summer travel period that could cause disruption for holidaymakers
The specific dates for the industrial action at Heathrow have yet to be confirmed.
The GMB Union says its members who are British Airways staff at Heathrow are angry that a 10% pay cut during the pandemic has not been reinstated, while bosses have had their pre-covid pay rates reinstated.
It also says that while other BA staff have been given a 10% bonus, check-in staff have not received the same.
Nadine Houghton, GMB National Officer, said: “With grim predictability, holiday makers face massive disruption thanks to the pig-headedness of British Airways.
“BA has tried to offer our members crumbs from the table in the form of a 10% one-off bonus payment, but this doesn’t cut the mustard. Our members need to be reinstated the 10% they had stolen from them last year with full back pay and the 10% bonus which other colleagues have been paid.
“GMB members at Heathrow have suffered untold abuse as they deal with the travel chaos caused by staff shortages and IT failures. At the same time, they’ve had their pay slashed during BA’s callous fire and rehire policy.
“What did BA think was going to happen? It’s not too late to save the summer holidays – other BA workers have had their pay cuts reversed, do the same for ground and check-in staff and this industrial action can be nipped in the bud.”
In an official statement, British Airways said: “We’re extremely disappointed with the result and that the unions have chosen to take this course of action.
“Despite the extremely challenging environment and losses of more than £4bn, we made an offer of a 10% payment which was accepted by the majority of other colleagues.
“We are fully committed to work together to find a solution, because to deliver for our customers and rebuild our business we have to work as a team. We will of course keep our customers updated about what this means for them as the situation evolves.”
It is expected that easyJet cabin crew, based in Spain, will strike between 1-3, 15-17 and 29-31 July, at its bases in Barcelona, Malaga, and Palma.
The USO union in Spain, representing disgruntled staff, said among other reasons, the planned strikes are due to easyJet’s refusal to reduce the difference in basic pay, and the difference in guaranteed minimum wage, that exists between the company’s staff in Spain and its other staff in Europe.
It said it does not know how many flights will be affected by the strikes.
EasyJet said: “We are extremely disappointed with this action as we have made considerable progress towards a new CLA (Collective Labour Agreement) and so would like to continue the constructive dialogue.
“Should the industrial action go ahead there could be some disruption to our flying programme to and from Malaga, Palma and Barcelona during the strike period but at this stage, easyJet plans to operate its full schedule and we would like to reassure customers that we will do everything possible to minimise any disruption.”
22 June: Government Intervenes On Flight Cancellations
The government has intervened in a bid to prevent travel disruption caused by last-minute flight cancellations this summer.
Ministers have laid out new regulations allowing airlines to plan schedules with fewer flights without jeopardising their contracts with airports as part of a one-off ‘amnesty’ on flight slots.
These slots are granted to airlines on the understanding they use them and their associated infrastructure – such as runways, terminals and gates – a certain number of times each year.
With airlines forced to cancel flights at short notice because of staffing issues, however, carriers have faced difficulty meeting their obligations.
Under the amnesty, airlines will be allowed to hand back the slots they’re not confident they’ll be able to use, without risking their tenancy with airport operators.
Grant Shapps MP, transport secretary, said: “Today’s announcement aims to help airlines provide certainty to passengers and ensure the next few months are as smooth as possible.”
Richard Moriarty, chief executive of the Civil Aviation Authority, welcomed the amnesty, but warned further planning was necessary: “Short-term measures are welcome, but a continued focus on the unplanned and inevitable operational challenges is crucial for consumer confidence this summer.”
Tim Alderslade of Airlines UK said: “We will continue to work with ministers and the whole aviation ecosystem to ensure the summer peak runs as smoothly as possible for our passengers.”
20 June: Heathrow Dogged By Baggage Snarl-Ups As Disruption Continues
London Heathrow Airport continues to be plagued by disruption, with airlines asked to cancel flights to ease congestion and the disruption caused by a baggage-handling backlog from the weekend.
Up to 5,000 passengers may have been affected across up to 30 flights on Monday.
Heathrow has blamed the disruption on a technical issue with the baggage system in its Terminal 2, rather than staff shortages. Airlines and airports have been blighted by Covid-related staff absences in recent weeks, as the summer holidays near and the demand for travel rises.
Over the weekend, according to reports on social media, hundreds of passengers at Heathrow were forced to wait three hours to retrieve their luggage.
A Heathrow spokesperson said: “We apologise unreservedly for the disruption passengers have faced over the course of this weekend.
“The technical issues affecting baggage systems have led to us making the decision to request airlines operating in Terminals 2 and 3 to consolidate their schedules on Monday 20th June.
“This will enable us to minimise ongoing impact and we ask that all passengers check with their airlines for the latest information.”
Heathrow has not stated how long it expects the disruption to continue.
Meanwhile, industrial action is expected to disrupt rail services across the UK on 21, 23 and 25 June. Heathrow Express will be running a limited service and the Elizabeth Line will be running every 30 minutes, from 7.30am to 6.30pm, on these days.
Heathrow advises passengers to allow more time for their journeys if using the roads around the airport on these days.
On 21 June, London Underground services will also be severely affected due to industrial action.
Gatwick has advised passengers not to use public transport between Tuesday 21 and Sunday 26 June.
Manchester airport advises passengers to not use trains to travel to the airport. However, it adds that passengers between 21 and 25 June should check the status of their service before arriving at the train station and plan ahead as it expects services to be busier than usual.
Passengers who make every effort to catch their flight but are prevented from doing so by travel disruption on their way to the airport may be able to claim on their travel insurance – they should check their policies for details.
10 June: US Drops Negative Test Requirement, Vaccinations Still Needed
International travellers no longer need to provide a negative Covid test or documentation of recovery before they board a flight to the United States as of 12:01AM Eastern Time (5.01am UK BST) on Sunday June 12, 2022.
The time applies to when the flight departs from its point of origin.
Only fully-vaccinated travellers may enter the US unless they are exempt from the requirement to be vaccinated – airlines will continue to check vaccination status before boarding.
You can find details here of who might be classed as exempt.
Children 17 and under are exempt from the vaccination requirement if travelling with a vaccinated adult.
The US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention is continuing to recommend the wearing of masks in “indoor transportation settings”.
Grant Shapps MP, UK minister for transport, greeted the news of the removal of the testing requirement by tweeting: “All Covid testing requirements for travellers entering USA dropped this Sunday – huge boost for transatlantic travel. Follows UK dropping ALL restrictions in March & our discussions with US about fully restarting international travel.”
24 May: Elizabeth Line Offers Heathrow Alternative
Passengers can now get to Heathrow airport using the Elizabeth Line – formerly known as Crossrail – which opened today.
The project, which has cost over £19 billion and is several years behind schedule, will offer a third major public transport link to Heathrow Airport, after the Tube and the Heathrow Express.
The Elizabeth line route to and from Heathrow will initially run from Paddington train station, but will be extended to Reading in Berkshire, and Shenfield in Essex, by the autumn.
Elizabeth Line passengers travelling from Paddington to Heathrow should expect a 28-minute journey, via six other stops including West Ealing and Southall.
This compares to 56 minutes, with at least one change of train when making the same journey by Tube. However, it adds 13 minutes when compared to the 15-minute journey by Heathrow Express, again departing from Paddington.
In terms of cost, the Tube remains the cheapest option for train travel between zone 1 (where Paddington station is located) and Heathrow Airport. Fares cost £3.50 during off-peak times or £5.50 during peak times (6.30am to 9.30am and 4pm to 7pm).
This compares to an off-peak cost of £10.70 when travelling from Paddington to Heathrow on the Elizabeth Line and £12.70 during peak times.
The Paddington Heathrow Express, which runs non-stop to the airport, costs £25 for an Anytime Single fare, although it’s cheaper if you book in advance. For example, if you book 90 days in advance, the price drops to £5.50.
According to Transport for London, a black cab for the journey between central London and Heathrow costs between £52 and £97 depending on the time taken, although traffic delays will bump up the cost if the journey takes over an hour. The price includes an extra charge of £5.20 to help cover the cost of Heathrow’s Terminal Drop-Off Charge.
To take an Uber will cost from around £35-£40 depending on the journey time.
23 May: Barbados Drops Testing For Vaccinated Arrivals
Fully vaccinated travellers will no longer need to take a Covid test to enter Barbados from Wednesday 25 May. The change was announced over the weekend by Barbados Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley.
The news comes following the announcement that Spain has changed its entry requirements to allow in unvaccinated travellers who can produce a negative Covid test (see story below).
It is hoped that removing the test will have a positive impact on Barbados’ tourism sector and speed up processing times at its Grantley Adams International Airport.
The relaxation of entry requirements should encourage more families to travel to the popular island destination this summer after a steep 90% decline in the number of visitors over the last two years.
The compulsory wearing of masks will also be restricted to indoors and on public transport only. Outdoors, masks will be optional.
Currently, all arrivals to Barbados must show proof of a negative pre-departure Covid PCR test or rapid antigen test, taken within one day prior to arrival, or a negative RT-PCR COVID-19 test taken within three days prior to arrival.
From Wednesday, unvaccinated arrivals should continue to quarantine at approved facilities (a designated holding hotel, approved villa or a government facility, at their own expense) for three days on arrival. On Day 4 of arrival, they must take a PCR test and test negative to come out of quarantine.
Travellers who have recently recovered from Covid, but have taken a positive pre-departure PCR test, should carry a letter from their medical practitioner with their lab test result, including the date of diagnosis and recovery.
On arrival, they may need to stay at one of the government isolation facilities for up to 48 hours before being released from quarantine.
Children aged 17 and under who are accompanied by fully vaccinated travellers, can follow the rules for fully vaccinated travellers to enter Barbados. Children aged 17 and under who are travelling unaccompanied should show evidence of a valid test result.
22 May: Spain Allows Unvaccinated UK Visitors To Enter With Negative Test
Travellers to Spain from the UK can now enter the country if they are unvaccinated provided they are able to produce a negative Covid-19 test on arrival. A negative PCR or antigen test will be accepted.
Those who are vaccinated must still show proof of vaccination.
This means the following will be accepted by the Spanish authorities for those wishing to enter the country:
- Vaccination certificate
- Negative test certificate
- Certificate of recovery from at least 11 days after first testing positive.
The UK’s proof of vaccination is accepted in Spain, in digital form or as a print-out.
PCR tests must be carried out in the 72 hours prior to departure to Spain or an antigen test in the 24 hours prior to departure.
Children under 12 are not not required to present any certification.
18 May: Update On Travel Restrictions For Popular Destinations
With countries around the world continuing to relax their Covid border restrictions, many families will be planning a holiday abroad for the summer. However, some popular destinations still have restrictions and requirements in place, often affecting children.
With that in mind, here’s a rundown of the current rules for the United States, Italy, Cyprus, Portugal and Spain.
Note that Cyprus and Portugal do not accept self-administered Covid tests.
- All travellers over two years of age must take a negative Covid pre-departure test, regardless of their vaccination status
- It is recommended another test is taken within three to five days of arrival, unless they have recovered from Covid in the 90 days before departure
- Fully-vaccinated travellers are allowed entry for work and leisure purposes. Children 17 and under are exempt from the vaccination requirement
- Unvaccinated travellers are only allowed entry if they are US citizens, US nationals, US lawful permanent residents or meet the criteria for an exception.
- Until 31 May travellers aged six and over must show either proof of vaccination, a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours before arrival or a negative rapid lateral flow test taken within the 48 hours before arrival, or a Covid-19 recovery certificate, showing they have recovered from Covid-19 in the last six months
- If they cannot show proof of the above, they must: travel to their final destination in Italy by private transport, self-isolate for five days and take another PCR or rapid lateral flow test at the end of the five days. If the test is negative, they can leave self-isolation.
- Travellers under the age of six are exempt.
- Vaccinated or recovered passengers must show a valid Covid-19 certificate of vaccination or recovery (i.e. NHS Covid Pass)
- Arrivals can present their vaccination certificate or recovery certificate in printed or electronic form. There may be additional requirements on arrival such as testing (travellers will be selected at random)
- Travellers aged 12 and over who are unvaccinated or do not hold a valid vaccination or recovery certificate, may enter Cyprus if they provide proof of a negative result (in electronic or printed form) from either a Covid-19 test (RT-PCR) taken 72 hours prior to departure, or a rapid antigen test taken 24 hours prior to departure
- The test must be carried out by a trained healthcare professional. Self-administered tests are not accepted
- Travellers under the age of 12 do not need to present a negative PCR or rapid test certificate.
- Vaccinated travellers must have had a full course of a vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency, at least 14 days and no more than 270 days before arrival or a full course of a vaccine, plus a booster vaccine approved by the European Medicines Agency at least 14 days before arrival
- Unvaccinated travellers aged 12 and over must show either proof of a negative PCR test (taken no more than 72 hours before boarding), a rapid lateral flow test (taken no more than 24 hours before boarding) or proof of recent recovery from Covid-19
- The test must be carried out by a trained healthcare professional. Self-administered tests are not accepted
- If they take a rapid lateral flow test, it should meet the standards set out in the EU common list of Rapid Antigen Tests
- If they’ve tested positive for Covid-19 in the last year, they will be required to present a Covid -19 recovery certificate (i.e. UK Covid Pass ) for entry. It must show recovery from the virus no less than 11 days and no more than 180 days before travel. A test will not be required
- If their airline allows travel to mainland Portugal or the Azores without a negative test or valid recovery certificate, they will need to pay for a Covid-19 test on arrival or face a fine
- Spain also requires unvaccinated travellers aged 12 and over to take a negative test to be able to enter the country. See more in the post below.
With border requirements for certain destinations still significantly varied for travellers depending on their vaccination status, age and sometimes departure country, there’s risk of confusion for UK holidaymakers.
Travellers should check with gov.uk and the destination country official websites to identify which tests they need to take and their destination’s entry requirements, noting that these can change without notice.
Nick Markham from Cignpost warns that travellers who arrive at airports without the right test could risk missing their flight: “It’s great to see people are travelling abroad again, but as individual countries are responsible for their own Covid testing rules, travellers must remain wary to ensure they’ve taken the right tests for their destination.
“The risk is that they can’t get a last-minute test in time for their flight, so pre-booking the right test at the airport should be thought of as a holiday essential, like buying insurance or finding the best deal for your travel money.”
13 May: Spain Extends Covid Border Rules Until 15 June
Spain’s Ministry of the Interior has announced that its current Covid-19 entry restrictions will be extended to 15 June at least.
This means arrivals from the UK – which is designated a ‘third’ country by Spain, and thus outside the more liberal rules applying to EU countries – will need to provide valid proof of vaccination or recovery.
Those unable to produce such evidence will be denied entry to the country, although children under 12 are exempt from the rules and, for those between 12 and 18, a negative PCR test result taken prior to departure will suffice.
The original date for the review of the current rules was set to be 15 May, but the change was revealed earlier this week when Spain announced the re-opening of its land border with Morocco.
11 May: EU Air Travel Mask Mandate Ends Monday 16 May
The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) and European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) have today updated their Covid-19 safety measures for air travel. As a result, masks will no longer be required on flights or in airports from Monday 16 May.
Despite the new recommendations coming into effect next week, individual airlines will still be able to implement their own rules on mask-wearing. The EASA and ECDC recommend that mask wearing is encouraged for flights to, or from, a destination where masks are required on public transport.
Patrick Ky, executive director at EASA, said: “It is a relief to all of us that we are finally reaching a stage in the pandemic where we can start to relax the health safety measures. For many passengers, and also aircrew members, there is a strong desire for masks to no longer be a mandatory part of air travel.”
11 May: New Zealand To Fully Open Borders by 31 July
New Zealand has confirmed a full opening of its borders to tourists and visa-holders from 11.59 pm on 31 July, three months earlier than originally planned.
Previously, entry was restricted to tourists from around 60 specified visa waiver countries, which included the UK (see story below, 29 April). Maritime borders will also open to cruise ships on the same date.
Visitors over the age of 16 are required to be fully vaccinated to enter New Zealand, subject to medical exemptions. Fully vaccinated travellers entering New Zealand do not need to self-isolate upon arrival.
Visitors from the UK (aged two and over) must provide a negative PCR test (with the results no more than 48 hours before departure) or a supervised rapid antigen test (RAT) or loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) test (with the results no more than 24 hours before departure).
You will still need a test even if you have been vaccinated for Covid-19.
If you have recently recovered from Covid-19, you still need to take a pre-departure test. If this is positive, you will need to be examined by a medical practitioner. If they are confident that you do not currently have a Covid-19 infection, they should provide a medical certificate within 48 hours of departure.
Vaccinated and eligible travellers entering New Zealand must also take two RATs after they arrive. These will be provided on arrival at the airport and a test must be taken on day zero or one (when you arrive in New Zealand) and day five or six.
6 May: Spain Maintains Entry Requirements For UK Visitors
Spain has extended its Covid-related travel restrictions for British visitors until at least 15 May, when the situation will be reviewed.
Arrivals from the UK will still be expected to provide valid proof of vaccination or recovery.
The former must show the traveller has received a recognised vaccination e.g. Pfizer, Astrazeneca, Moderna etc. within the last 270 days. The latter must show a traveller has recovered from the virus within the last 180 days.
Children under 12 are exempt from both requirements.
Travellers on Spain’s exemption list, which includes health professionals, transport personnel, diplomatic and consular personnel, students, and highly qualified workers, are allowed to enter the country without proof of vaccination or recovery if they can provide a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to arrival.
Travellers are not required to wear face coverings once in Spain.
3 May: Croatia, Serbia Drop Covid Entry Requirements
Croatia and Serbia have dropped all their Covid-19 travel restrictions, as of today.
The neighbouring European countries will welcome tourists and travellers from any destination without any testing or vaccination requirements.
Visitors are still recommended to wear masks indoors while in Serbia, and are required to do so in the country’s healthcare settings.
The countries’ relaxation of restrictions follows similar moves over the weekend in Greece and New Zealand (see story below).
29 April: Greece and New Zealand Relax Travel Rules
Greece and New Zealand will relax entry requirements for British travellers from this Sunday, 1 May.
Visitors to Greece won’t need to provide proof of vaccination or negative PCR tests, though mask wearing will remain mandatory while indoors and when using public transport.
New Zealand will allow fully vaccinated travellers to enter the country from 11.59pm on Sunday. New Zealand citizens, children aged 16 and under and those who can evidence themselves as medically exempt will not need to provide proof of vaccination.
‘Fully vaccinated’ in this context means you’ve received at least two courses of an approved Covid 19 vaccination e.g. Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna.
Visitors to New Zealand will also need to provide three negative PCR tests: one before departure, one on arrival and a third five or six days after arrival. Pre-departure tests must be conducted no more than 48-hours before the flight leaves the UK.
No quarantines are necessary if your post-arrival antigen tests are negative.
Face coverings are still required on all public transport and internal flights in New Zealand. Domestic air travel may require either proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test taken within the 72 hours prior to departure.
14 April: Chaos Worsens As P&O Cancels Easter Dover Crossings
P&O Ferries has confirmed its Dover-Calais route will remain suspended over the Easter weekend. Two of its ferries – the Pride of Kent and Spirit of Britain – have been withdrawn from service because of safety concerns.
The firm has sent the following messages via twitter:
#PODover#POCalais 15/04 00:01 – 18/04 23:59 Our Passenger Services are suspended this weekend. We sincerely apologise, for travel 15-18 April please re-book directly with another operator before arriving at the port. DFDS are not able to transfer PO customers onto their ships
For travel between 15/04 00:01 – 18/04 23:59, we will provide a full refund of your ticket. We will also pay back the difference in cost between your P&O Ferries ticket and your new booking with another operator. Claims should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org
Travellers flying out of the UK today have been hit with yet more flight cancellations. More than 80 flights have been cancelled by British Airways and easyJet.
British Airways has grounded at least 52 flights to and from Heathrow, while easyJet has cancelled at least 30 flights to and from Gatwick.
13 April: Greece to lift Covid requirements in time for summer holidays
UK travellers planning to visit Greece can expect a relaxation of Covid rules this summer.
Today its Ministry of Health confirmed that, from 1 May, the requirement to show Covid passes to enter public venues, bars and restaurants will be lifted, with the rule change to be reviewed on 1 September.
From 1 June the requirement to wear masks in most venues will also be dropped. Exceptions will be announced closer to the date.
The Ministry also signaled that it may remove Covid restrictions for entry to the country from 1 May. It said that the need for proof of vaccination for entry will be “examined” and there will be “newer announcements”.
Currently, all travellers over five years of age, must show an EU Covid Digital Certificate as proof of either:
- recovery from Covid
- a negative PCR or antigen Covid test result.
PCR tests must be taken in the 72 hours prior to departure, while antigen tests should be taken in the 24 hours prior to departure.
12 April: Passport Applicants Told To Allow 10 Weeks
The government is reminding anyone needing a British passport to apply 10 weeks ahead of their planned departure date as demand remains at an “all-time high”.
HM Passport Office says it saw a significant drop in the number of people applying for passports during the Covid-19 crisis. It says over 5 million people delayed their applications in 2020 and 2021.
Now, however, with Covid restrictions being eased or removed in the UK and elsewhere, and with international travel returning to normal, more people are filing passport applications.
Abi Tierney, head of the Passport Office, said: “While there are urgent services for people who need their passport more quickly, appointment availability is limited. People are therefore strongly advised to apply early and help ensure that their holiday plans go smoothly.”
You can find out more about the application process and apply online using this link.
Tuesday has brought further disruption to air and ferry travellers, including:
- British Airways has cancelled 58 of its flights to and from Heathrow
- easyJet has cancelled at least 32 flights from Gatwick
- P&O Ferries Dover-Calais route is suspended until Friday. P&O continues to advise passengers travelling from Dover to Calais to go to the DFDS check-in booths at the port, while those travelling on the Calais-Dover route should head to the P&O check-in booths for further assistance.
11 April: Travellers Hit By Strife As Easter Approaches
The airport saga that has blighted international travel for over a week continues today, with easyJet and British Airways cancelling more than 100 flights due to staff shortages.
easyJet has cancelled at least 32 flights from Gatwick airport, in addition to grounding planes from Luton and Edinburgh. British Airways’ cancellations include 58 flights to and from Heathrow.
Leeds Bradford airport is advising travellers to arrive two to three hours before departure to allow for security queues. Manchester airport, which is experiencing its own staff shortages, continues to recommend travellers arrive three hours before departure due to delays and long queues that it said last week would last until summer.
As well as factoring in extra time for queuing, you can also make sure your journey goes as smoothly as possible by:
- checking Covid entry requirements for your destination, including any need to provide proof of vaccination or show the results of a negative test
- double-checking your passport is still valid. Validity requirements vary between destinations, with Spain for example, requiring that passports remain valid for at least three months after the departure date
- making sure your travel insurance provides the necessary cover for your destination. Many insurers boost medical cover and liability insurance levels for the US, Caribbean, Canada and sometimes Mexico on account of their higher costs.
- some destinations require that you show proof of insurance, including cover for Covid-related risks. To be safe, take hard copies as well as digital copies of your policy away with you.
P&O Ferries Dover-Calais route suspended
After a chaotic weekend of sailing suspensions for P&O Ferries, services have mostly returned to normal today for the Larne – Cairnryan, Hull – Rotterdam and Liverpool – Dublin routes.
However, services on the Dover-Calais route remain suspended. Passengers travelling from Dover to Calais are advised to go to the DFDS check-in booths, while those travelling on the Calais-Dover route should head to the P&O check-in booths.
Record levels of road congestion this Easter weekend
The RAC has warned that this Easter weekend could be the busiest on UK roads in recent times. It estimates that over 21 million Easter getaways will be made by car, the highest number since the company started recording motorist’s plans in 2014.
The busiest day is due to be Good Friday, when an estimated five million leisure trips will be made. The next busiest day will be Monday as nearly 4 million drivers will start their journeys. Saturday and Sunday will each see 3.6 million travellers head out on their Easter travels by car.
According to transport analytics specialists INRIX, the congestion will be exacerbated by railway network closures, including major engineering work between London and Birmingham, and football fans making their way from Manchester and Liverpool to Wembley to watch the semi-final of the FA Cup on Saturday. Rail strikes could also take place in Scotland and the North of England.
It says drivers should expect the following routes to be busiest:
- M6 north between Liverpool and the Lake District and south towards Stoke-on-Trent
- M25 between Surrey and the M40 exit
- A303 near Stonehenge.
RAC advises that drivers:
- head off as early as possible, or start their trips at the end of the day to avoid the worst of the traffic
- check their cars are road-worthy before leaving to limit the chance of breaking down.
11 April: Czech Republic Lifts Covid Restrictions
The Czech Republic is now open without restriction to vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers in time for Easter.
As its entry rules return to pre-Covid norms, all visitors can now enter the country without proof of vaccination or negative pre-departure test, or need to fill in arrival forms. Unvaccinated travellers do not need to take a test on arrival.
The country’s Ministry of the Interior stated this weekend: “As of 9 April 2022, the protective measures regarding the conditions of entry into the Czech Republic in relation to the epidemic of Covid-19 have been suspended.
“Entry into the Czech Republic is no longer subject to any special epidemiological conditions to prevent the spread of the disease. The entry-ban for foreigners from third countries and the obligation to prove infection-free status have been lifted.”
‘Third countries’ are those that are not European Union (EU) members or do not benefit from the right to free movement – freedom of its citizens to travel between and reside in EU member states.
Certain Covid rules still apply once in the Czech Republic, such as the mandatory wearing of Covid facemasks on public transport, in hospitals and pharmacies.
8 April: Disruption Plagues Air Travellers, P&O Suspends Services
Travellers using UK airports – notably Manchester, Heathrow and Gatwick – are facing cancellations, delays and disruption due to staff shortages.
British Airways has today cancelled 68 flights across the UK, while easyJet has pulled 42 from its schedule, saying staff are absent due to Covid-related illness. Airports in particular are saying they are also struggling to recruit staff after laying off employees during the pandemic shutdowns.
There are fears this weekend could bring further chaos as more schools close for Easter and families head for international holiday destinations.
Passengers are being urged to check with their airline before setting off to the airport. If their flight is operating, they are recommended to allow extra time for check-in and security clearance, where lengthy queues are being reported.
Charlie Cornish, boss of Manchester Airport Group, said he could not apologise enough for disruption at the airport in recent weeks: “The simple fact is that we don’t currently have the number of staff we need to provide the level of service that our passengers deserve.”
He advised travellers to arrive at the airport three hours before their flight leaves, to allow enough time to check-in, get through security and reach the departure gate, adding: “These measures are temporary and we are focused on getting back to normal in time for the peak summer season.
“As new staff join us, the operational pressure we are facing will ease and queue times will begin to come down.”
The boss of the air travel regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, Richard Moriarty, has written to airlines and airports demanding that disruption is kept to a minimum.
He said: “We appreciate that it is not always possible to anticipate all the challenges that may arise on any particular day, but where capacity constraints can be predicted in advance, we would expect co-operation between all parties to determine the best outcomes for consumers.
“Where capacity is unavoidably restricted, we expect this co-operative planning to identify problems sufficiently in advance so as to allow pre-emptive cancellations. At a minimum, we would like to see passengers given notice so that they do not travel to airports unnecessarily and are able to make alternative arrangements where possible and appropriate.”
Mr Moriarty also reminded airlines of their legal obligations to provide passengers with information about their rights when flights are disrupted, to provide care and assistance during the disruption and to offer passengers a choice of refund or alternative travel, along with compensation as appropriate.
You can find out more here about your compensation and refund rights.
Easter holiday plans are also in jeopardy for ferry travellers. Following its shock summary dismissal of 800 staff last month, P&O Ferries services between Dover and Calais are suspended until Monday. Status updates can be found on its site.
The firm is telling customers to re-arrange travel for this weekend directly with other operators. This is a change to its earlier advice, which was for passengers to arrive at the port as booked when alternative arrangements would be made.
It says that all travellers with P&O Ferries bookings who have not been transferred to another operator by P&O will receive a full refund. Refund requests can be sent to email@example.com or you can call 01304 448888.
P&O’s Larne-Cairnryan route remains suspended. It is advising travellers not to go to their embarkation port and says it will provide refunds.
Reduced services are running for the firm’s Hull-Rotterdam route. It says it will contact affected customers and arrange an alternative provider for those needing travel on a return leg, or with urgent or essential needs.
Dover District Council warns of a “challenging” weekend on the local road network as ferry disruption at the port causes tailbacks for people trying to get away for Easter. An estimated 4,500 HGV lorries are queuing on the M20 awaiting entry to the port.
7 April: Spain Backtracks On Border Opening Relaxation
UPDATE: Spanish Borders Remain Closed To Unvaccinated Travellers
The Spanish Tourist Office in the UK has issued an apology to clarify yesterday’s statement which suggested Spain was now open to all regardless of vaccination status (see story below). This is now understood not to be the case.
Pedro Medina, the office’s deputy director, said: “We apologise unreservedly for the miscommunication earlier today which was due to a misunderstanding of the new entry requirements.”
The office has updated its information, saying: “The Spanish Tourist Office in the UK issued a statement… which was incorrect. The statement said that from 6 April, non-vaccinated UK passengers can now enter Spain with proof of a negative PCR or antigen test, or proof of diagnostic recovery and without the need to be double vaccinated. This was misinterpreted and is not correct.
“UK travellers aged 12 and above are still required to show proof of being fully-vaccinated or a certificate of recovery. There is an exception for those aged 12 to 17 (inclusive) who can show a negative COVID test (PCR of similar) taken within 72 hours of arrival.”
From yesterday, 6 April, children under 12 and those travelling to Spain with an EU Covid passport or equivalent (including NHS Covid travel pass) no longer need to complete the Health Control Form (FCS in Spanish) before travelling to Spain.
Travellers without an EU Covid pass or equivalent must complete the Health Control Form as evidence of their vaccinations or certificate of recovery.
UK travellers, aged 12 and above, will still need to provide one of the following:
- proof of being fully-vaccinated, either with both doses of a two-dose vaccine or one dose of a one-dose vaccine, at least 14 days prior to arriving in Spain. If more than 270 days (nine months) have passed since the final dose, certification of a booster vaccination will be required, except for teenagers aged 12 to 17 (inclusive)
- proof of recovery from Covid. Recovery certificates issued by the official authorities will be valid at least 11 days after the first positive PCR or rapid antigen test, carried out by qualified personnel. The certificate shall be valid for 180 days after the date of the first positive test result.
Children under 12 years old travelling with an adult are exempt.
More information about travelling to and around Spain is available here.
6 April: Spain Opens For Unvaccinated Travellers – see story above
Spain has opened its borders to unvaccinated UK travellers who are able to provide a negative PCR test (taken within 72 hours of departure) or rapid antigen test (taken within 24 hours of departure).
It joins other major countries, including France, in relaxing its coronavirus restrictions on international travel. The move will be seen as a boost – albeit a late one – for the holiday sector ahead of the Easter break.
But travellers heading to a range of destinations from the UK are facing serious disruption due to Covid-19 related staff shortages at airlines and airports (see story below).
Travellers to Spain who are vaccinated must provide certification, including evidence of a booster jab if it is more than 270 days since their initial vaccination. This applies to those aged 18 and above.
Those who have a certificate of recovery from Covid-19 that is no more than 180 days old will also be admitted.
More information on travel to Spain is available from the Spanish Tourist Office.
- Poland recently announced that is has dropped all entry requirements and restrictions, meaning travellers do not need to confirm their vaccination status, show proof of recovery or offer evidence of a negative Covid test of any kind.
6 April: Cancellations Spectre Looms Over Easter Travel Plans
Holiday plans are being thwarted for thousands of travellers in the run-up to Easter due to hundreds of flight cancellations caused by Covid-related sickness among airline and airport staff.
Last-minute cancellations have caused chaos in airports across the UK, as travellers taking advantage of the relaxing of Covid travel restrictions in Europe and beyond have been hit with delays and long security queues.
The high number of cancellations and prolonged delays has sharpened the focus on passenger rights in terms of alternative provision, ticket refunds, financial support and compensation.
You can find out more here about your compensation and refund rights.
British Airways and easyJet have cancelled dozens of flights today, with more disruption likely in the coming days. In total easyJet has cancelled over 300 flights in recent days, while British Airways has cancelled over 100 since Monday.
If you’re due to fly, you should regularly check the status of your flight before leaving home.
Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Birmingham and Dublin airports in particular are experiencing congestion, queues and delays.
Karen Smart, Manchester Airport’s managing director, resigned on Tuesday following criticism from local councillors for the prolonged disruption.
On the subject of passenger compensation, Anna Bowles, head of consumer enforcement at UK aviation regulator the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), said: “We understand the impact it can have on customers when flights are delayed or cancelled. That is why there are rules in place to protect customers in these circumstances.
“If your flight is delayed, your airline has a duty of care to look after you. This can include providing food and drink, as well as accommodation if you are delayed overnight. If your flight is cancelled, you should be offered a choice of refund or offered alternative travel arrangements at the earliest opportunity. This can include flights on other airlines, or a new flight at a later date at your convenience.
“We also expect airlines to proactively provide passengers with information about their rights when flights are disrupted. We have guidance on cancellations and flight disruption published on our website and expect airlines to follow this.
“Where we have evidence that airlines are not following these guidelines, we will not hesitate to take further action where required.”
5 April: Malta Opens To Unvaccinated Travellers
Malta has joined the growing number of countries allowing unvaccinated travellers to enter provided they have negative PCR test or a Covid recovery certificate. The change comes into effect from 11 April.
Previously, such travellers were required to enter quarantine for seven days (reduced last month from 14 days).
Chris Fearne, the country’s deputy prime minister and minister for health, says Malta is proceeding with its COVID-19 exit roadmap as planned. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has confirmed that Malta has the lowest rate of COVID-related intensive therapy unit occupancy across the EU.
From Monday 11 April 2022, incoming tourists travelling to Malta from a country on its red list (including the UK) will be allowed in with a negative PCR test (taken up to 72 hours prior to arrival) or a recognised Covid recovery certificate which cannot be older than 180 days.
In addition, Mr Fearne announced that, as planned, from the 10 April 2022, a vaccine certificate is no longer needed for persons to attend standing outdoor events, or seated indoor events.
31 March: France Reopens To Unvaccinated Travellers
France has relaxed its border requirements today to allow unvaccinated travellers from the UK to enter the country without the need for a ‘compelling reason’.
The move will allow more people to travel to the country for the Easter holidays.
Announcing the change on twitter, Guillaume Bazard, the consul general for France in London said: “On 03/31 the United Kingdom will be placed on the green list. Removal of compelling reasons for non-vaccinated travellers, who will have to present a negative test.”
Unvaccinated travellers who have had one or no jabs will be required to provide a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours before arrival in France or an antigen test taken within 48 hours before arrival.
They will no longer need to quarantine for seven days on arrival.
Vaccinated travellers will no longer need to submit a sworn declaration form to confirm a lack of Covid symptoms. They are now only required to show proof of vaccination.
Those who have been administered one dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine are being told to wait 28 days before travelling to France, while those who have had two or more jabs of the Oxford/Astrazeneca, Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines should have had their second jab at least seven days prior to their departure.
Children under the age of 12 do not need to take any Covid tests or show proof of vaccination.
18 March: UK Travel Restrictions End, Travellers Urged To Check Destination Rules
Requirements that all travellers must complete passenger locator forms and that unvaccinated travellers must test for Covid-19 before and after arrival ended in the UK at 4am today.
The government has lifted the restrictions because of, it says, the success of the vaccination and booster roll-out.
However, while the rules have been lifted for inbound travellers to the UK, many popular destinations still have Covid-related requirements, including rules affecting children.
Families planning a foreign holiday this Easter are being urged to check the Covid rules and restrictions in place in the country they are intending to visit.
According to NHS figures, there are 1.5 million children aged 12 to 17 in England who have had two doses of Covid vaccine. There are an estimated 3.9 million in that age group, meaning 2.4 million would need a negative Covid test to enter countries such as Spain, Turkey and the US – these destinations have pre-departure testing regimes in place that affect children aged 12 and above who have not had two vaccination jabs.
Greece has even more restrictive rules, with children aged five and over who are not fully vaccinated to take a negative PCR test within 72 hours before their arrival, or a lateral flow test no more than 24 hours before arriving.
For Italy, unvaccinated children aged 6 and over must take a PCR test within 72 hours, or a lateral flow test within 48 hours.
Spain insists that unvaccinated children aged 12 to 17 take a PCR test within 72 hours before their holiday starts. France allows this age group to take a lateral flow test within 48 hours before arriving.
For the US, all children aged two and over must take a Covid test within one day prior to arrival, with unvaccinated children required to take a second test three to five days after landing in the country.
Nick Markham at Cignpost ExpressTest, a Covid-testing provider, says the rules could trip up families heading abroad: “As international travel reopens and lockdown restrictions are being lifted, countries are implementing their own entry requirements for arrivals.
“We’re particularly concerned about the rules around children, which can vary by age, vaccination status, tests required, and whether they’ve had Covid before.”
Failure to comply with the regulations may result in the family not being permitted to travel or being denied entry to the destination country.
Here’s a snapshot of the rules applying to children in popular Easter destinations:
17 March: P&O Ferries Crisis Strands Passengers, May Trigger Insurance Claims
The shock decision by P&O Ferries to suspend services and dismiss around 800 sea-faring staff has left many passengers stranded onboard vessels or at embarkation terminals, with others unsure whether to set off on their scheduled journeys.
A statement on the company’s website reads: “P&O Ferries have today announced a programme of work to become a more competitive and efficient operator, providing a better service to our customers across the tourism and freight industries. While we enact these changes, there will be significant disruption across P&O Ferries services over the next few days, however we are working to minimise the impact on your journey.”
Recent tweets from the firm say P&O Ferries services are unable to run “for the next few days” and that the firm is advising travellers of alternative arrangements.
Passengers on the Dover-Calais route are being told to arrive at their departure port as scheduled and report to the DFDS check-in facilities (DFDS is a rival operator), but travellers from other ports have been told that space with alternative operators is very limited, “so we would suggest if your journey is not essential, please do not travel today.”
P&O Ferries should provide alternative travel and, if necessary, meet the cost of overnight accommodation. But if passengers who are stranded or disrupted by the suspension of P&O Ferries’ services are not able to claim compensation directly from the firm, they may be able to claim on their travel insurance provided their policy includes End Supplier Failure.
Some policies offer this as standard, while others require payment of an additional premium at the outset for the cover to be included.
This shouldn’t be confused with the more commonly-known ‘Scheduled Airline Failure’. End Supplier Failure covers airlines as well as ferries, trains, hotels, and coach operators, and only this cover would help someone affected by the P&O situation.
Stranded travellers should be able to claim for any out-of-pocket expenses incurred as a result of not being able to complete their journey as planned and paid for with P&O. They should keep receipts for any expenditure to support their claim, including sustenance and accommodation, as well as alternative travel arrangements if these are not provided by P&O.
Policies usually carry an excess charge which will be deducted from any payment made.
14 March: UK travel restrictions to end Friday as Heathrow, BA and Virgin drop mask mandate
All remaining international travel restrictions for travellers to the UK will be scrapped from this Friday (18 March) in time for the Easter holidays, the government announced today.
In a tweet, the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps MP confirmed: “All remaining Covid travel measures, including the Passenger Locator Form and tests for all arrivals, will be stood down for travel to the UK from 4am on 18 March. These changes are possible due to our vaccine rollout and mean greater freedom in time for Easter.”
Lengthy Passenger Locator Forms, which all travellers must currently fill in when entering the UK, will be stood down from the end of this week, while unvaccinated travellers will no longer be required to test before departure or on Day 2 of their arrival in the UK.
The announcement marks an effective end to all Covid travel restrictions in the UK. Travellers leaving the UK may still be required to prove their vaccination status or provide evidence of a negative test according to the rules in place in their destination country.
Information on the rules in place in different countries can be found on the gov.uk website.
Separately, London’s Heathrow Airport is dropping its mask mandate from tomorrow (Wednesday 16 March).
Announcing the move, it said: “We still strongly encourage both colleagues and passengers to wear them (face coverings), particularly when they come into close contact with others, but this will no longer be mandatory.”
It remains the case that some airlines will require their passengers and crew to wear masks, so travellers are advised to check with their airline ahead of departure.
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are among the airlines that will be partially lifting their mask mandates this week.
Masks will still be required for British Airways passengers if the destination country or airport requires their use, which Virgin will introduce the change gradually over the coming days.
Virgin Atlantic tweeted: “With the legal requirement to wear a face mask now removed in England, we believe our customers should have the personal choice whether to wear a mask onboard.
“The mask rules that apply will depend on the route you’re flying, because requirements differ by destination.”
9 March: Israel drops border vax mandate
Israel has re-opened its borders to all tourists, regardless of vaccination status or age.
Travellers, including those from the UK, can now enter the country without need of a vaccination certificate.
All travellers are now only required to show evidence of two negative PCR tests – one taken prior to departure, and a second on arrival in Israel.
Negative results from lab-based antigen tests, such as lateral flow tests, are not accepted.
Arrivals who test positive for Covid must quarantine in their hotel until they receive a negative PCR test result or for 24 hours – whichever comes first.
The Israeli authorities decided to ease restrictions following the steady decline in Covid cases in the country.
According to figures from the World Health Organisation (WHO), the number of confirmed Covid cases fell each week in Israel in February. While over 240,000 cases were recorded in the first week of that month, this dropped to around 52,000 cases in fourth.
- Hungary scrapped its Covid border restrictions for arrivals of all nationalities on Monday 7 March.
Travellers arriving in the country by public road, railway, water or air only need follow the protocols in place before the pandemic, such as carrying a valid passport.
They will not be required to prove vaccination status or show proof of a negative Covid test on arrival.
The requirement to wear a face mask in indoor spaces and on public transport was also dropped on 7 March, though still remains mandatory in hospitals and other medical environments.
Rules regulating the use of immunity certificates – proof of recovery from Covid – have been abolished.
23 February: EU Drops Travel Restrictions From 1 March
Restrictions on non-essential travel to European Union member countries will be dropped from 1 March for vaccinated and Covid-recovered travellers, the European Commission has announced.
In a move that will unify entry rules for EU countries, travellers from outside the bloc, including the UK, will be allowed entry for reasons including going on holiday.
However, arrivals will still need to adhere to travel requirements by either:
- showing proof they have been vaccinated with either an EU or World Health Organisation-approved vaccine
- showing they have recovered from the virus within 180 days of arrival
- travelling from a country on the EU’s list of ‘third’ non-EU countries (of which the UK is one). For some of these travellers, additional measures such as PCR testing before travel could apply.
Vaccinated travellers should have had the last dose of their primary vaccination series at least 14 days and no more than 270 days before arrival, or have received a booster dose.
For those vaccinated with a WHO-approved vaccine, member states could also require a negative PCR test taken at the earliest 72 hours before departure and could apply additional measures such as quarantine or isolation.
A negative PCR test before departure could also be required for persons who have recovered from COVID-19, as well as for persons who have been vaccinated with an EU-approved vaccine but do not hold an EU or equivalent certificate.
Non-vaccinated travellers will need to have an essential reason to travel, such as being an EU citizen or a long-term EU resident.
Children over 6 and under 18 who fulfill the conditions set out for adults will be allowed to travel. All other children over 6 and under 18 will be allowed to travel with a negative PCR test taken at the earliest 72 hours before departure. Member states will be able to require additional testing after arrival, as well as quarantine or isolation.
No test or additional requirements will be applied to children under the age of 6.
13 February: France Drops Pre-Departure Test For Vaxxed Brits
British travellers to France who are fully vaccinated now no longer need to show a negative result from a pre-departure test. The change in policy was announced by Guillaume Bazard, the French consul-general in London, last Friday, and took effect on 12 February.
Those whose second dose of the vaccine was more than 270 days preceding travel will need to have had a booster shot to be considered fully vaccinated.
Travellers will still need to complete a sworn statement regarding their status.
Unvaccinated travellers will not be admitted to France unless they can demonstrate a compelling reason, and the need for them to self-isolate for 10 days remains.
Children aged 12 and over will be deemed to have the same vaccination status as an accompanying adult. If they are travelling alone they will need to be fully vaccinated. Those aged 11 and under do not need to be vaccinated.
11 February: Spain To Admit 12 to 17-Year-Olds Without Vax
Spain has changed its entry requirements for UK travellers aged 12 to 17 to allow entry without proof of vaccination.
In a statement released today, the Spanish government announced that the change will take effect from midnight on Monday 14 February. Grant Shapps MP, the British transport secretary, has tweeted that the change will come into force at 11pm UK time on Sunday 13 February.
It will mean travellers aged between 12 and 17 from the UK may present a RT-PCR test or similar with a negative result as an alternative to presenting a valid Covid vaccination certificate, as currently required. The test must be carried out within 72 hours before arrival in Spain.
The change in the rules applies to countries outside the European Union or Schengen area “where access to a Covid vaccine for this age group is difficult or not yet possible”
All children under 12, travelling with an adult, will continue to be treated as fully-vaccinated after 14 February.
All adult UK travellers must be fully vaccinated to visit Spain for non-essential reasons such as for holidaying.
11 February: UK Inbound Testing Measures Removed As Of Today
All testing measures for fully vaccinated travellers arriving in the UK were removed at 4am today (11 February).
Travellers arriving in the UK who are not fully vaccinated will, from today, only need to take a pre-departure test and a PCR test on or before day 2 after they arrive in the UK. This means the requirement to self-isolate and take a day 8 test has been removed.
All passengers, vaccinated or otherwise, will still need to complete a Passenger Locator Form.
For inward travel, all under-18s regardless of their individual vaccination status will continue to be considered as fully vaccinated.
Grant Shapps MP, transport secretary, described the move as a “landmark moment for international travel.”
He said: “After nearly two years of necessary but complex travel arrangements these changes will make it cheaper and easier for families to travel, taking advantage of the UK’s high levels of vaccination, and keeping us all safe.”
9 February: Skiers Urged To Check Covid Requirements
Ahead of the upcoming half-term break, Brits heading to the slopes for winter sports holidays are being urged to check the entry rules for their destination countries, as well as any restrictions governing access to services and facilities at their resort.
We’ve put together a country-by-country guide covering Europe and North America so you can check the rules that might affect your trip.
According to Cignpost Express Test, which offers Covid testing services, Italy has some of the toughest rules, with 12 to 16-year-olds able to enter the country with a negative lateral flow test, but barred from ski facilities unless they are fully vaccinated or recently recovered from Covid.
The firm says France, Austria and Switzerland also have confusing requirements, with children who are not fully vaccinated asked to prove their Covid status with additional tests during their holiday.
Nick Markham at Cignpost ExpressTest says the rules across Europe could catch families out: “The rules are changing regularly and every destination is a different. For children, the regulations for entering a country may not be the same as the requirements for full access to the facilities at the resort.”
Here’s a snapshot of the rules applying in popular destinations…
France is only an option for fully vaccinated skiers, as non-vaccinated travellers require an essential reason to visit the country.
Children aged 12+ mirror the vaccination status of the adults they are with, and younger children are exempt from restrictions.
Everyone aged 12 and over must present a negative PCR or lateral flow test taken within 24 hours before their departure from the UK.
Once in France, fully vaccinated travellers qualify for the Pass Vaccinal to get full access to leisure facilities across ski resorts including Courchevel, Chamonix and Val d’Isere.
Children aged 12 to 15 must have a Pass Sanitaire to use ski lifts and eat in cafes and restaurants, which they can get if they are fully vaccinated, have recently recovered from Covid, or they have taken a negative Covid test within the previous 24 hours.
The French Government has recently lifted the requirement to wear masks on ski lifts.
The home of famous resorts including Zermatt, St. Moritz and Verbier, Switzerland has lifted all testing requirements for fully vaccinated holidaymakers to enter the country, and under 18s have the same vaccination status as the adults they are with.
Once in resort, everyone aged 6 and over must wear face masks in queues and on ski lifts, and everyone over 16 must provide proof they are fully vaccinated or have recently recovered from Covid to access indoor venues and ski lifts.
For Italy, fully vaccinated skiers aged 6+ must take a lateral flow test within 24 hours before their departure from the UK, or a PCR test within 48 hours. Children up to 17 mirror the vaccination status of their parents.
In resort, everyone aged 6 and over must wear face masks in busy places, and everyone aged 12 and over must have a ‘Super Green Pass’ that proves they have been fully vaccinated or recently recovered from Covid.
If you’ve had your booster there is no testing requirement to enter Austria, but anyone who has had only two jabs, or children aged 12 to 16 who are not fully vaccinated, must produce a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours before leaving the UK. Under 12s mirror the vaccine status of their parents.
Once at your ski resort, everyone aged 12 and over must have ‘2G’ status, which means they are fully vaccinated or recovered from COVID.
12 to 16 year olds who are not fully vaccinated can obtain a Holiday Ninja Pass by producing two negative PCR tests, including the one taken on entry to Austria, plus a negative lateral flow test, over a seven-day period during their holiday.
Everyone who is 6 and over must wear a face mask in queues and on ski lifts.
Requirements in popular destinations
7 February: Australia to re-open borders
Fully-vaccinated non-Australian and non-resident holidaymakers and business travellers with eligible visas will be able to enter Australia from Monday 21 February.
Currently, entry to Australia is only allowed if you are exempt or have been granted an individual exemption. Exemptions include:
- Australian citizenship
- permanent residence in Australia
- an immediate family member is an Australian citizen or permanent resident.
Details of exemptions, including how to apply, can be found on the Department of Home Affairs website.
Today’s announcement is designed to boost the tourism sector which, according to Australian government figures, generated more than $60 billion for the country’s economy in 2018-19, with 660,000 dependent jobs.
The statement issued says the change “will ensure we protect the health of Australians, while we continue to secure our economic recovery.”
Australia swiftly implemented strict Covid restrictions at the start of pandemic when it closed its borders to the rest of the world in March 2020.
From 1 November 2021, Australia started a staged reopening of its borders, including extending its ‘immediate family member’ exemption to include the parents of adult Australian citizens and permanent residents.
According to the Australian government, almost 600,000 people have been allowed entry to the country since this date.
Entry requirements for unvaccinated travellers
From 21 February, travellers with valid visas who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated will still need a travel exemption to cross the Australian border.
They will also need to abide by state and territory quarantine rules.
3 February: France toughens stance on vaccinations and boosters
France has changed its entry requirements for vaccinated travellers from the UK.
According to Eurostar’s website, passengers over 18 will henceforth only be considered fully vaccinated if they have completed their primary approved course of full vaccination within the past nine months (received both jabs) OR if they have received a COVID-19 vaccine booster.
All those considered to be fully vaccinated are required to show proof of a negative PCR or antigen test taken within 24 hours before their departure from the UK.
Under 18s do not need a booster jab to be considered fully vaccinated.
Those who completed their vaccination course more than nine months ago and who have not been boosted will be treated as if they are unvaccinated, which will mean they will need:
31 January: Govt proposes flight delay compensation overhaul
The government has opened a consultation process designed to overhaul the way airlines treat their customers, including the payment of compensation for delays.
Proposals include moving away from the current ‘set rate’ model, bought in when the UK was a member of the EU, which sees passengers compensated £220 if a flight under 1,500km is delayed more than three hours.
The suggestion is that passengers should be compensated based on the length of their flight delay and the cost of their travel.
Delays under three hours would be eligible for compensation but, in a move that would benefit low-cost airlines in particular, the amounts paid could be less than at present. Under the current regime, it is possible for passengers to be “over compensated” by receiving a greater amount in compensation than they spent on their ticket.
The consultation runs until 27 March, with a response published within three months. A date for when the plans should come into force, if approved, has not yet been set.
Grant Shapps, transport secretary, said: “It’s a watershed moment for the industry that will ensure airlines treat their customers with fairness and respect.
“People deserve a service that puts passengers first when things go wrong, so today I’ve launched proposals that aim to bolster airline consumer protections and rights.”
Sanctions for airlines
Also under the proposals, all airlines would need to be a member of an aviation Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme.
This would provide an alternative route to settle complaints that cannot be resolved between airlines and passengers, which currently have to go to court. At present, airlines can join ADR schemes voluntarily.
The UK aviation regulator, the Civil Aviation Authority, would also have more power to ensure consumers are treated fairly and consumer protection law is followed, including the ability to fine airlines directly for breaches, where appropriate.
Compensation for damaged wheelchairs and scooters
The plans also propose that wheelchair users and people with reduced mobility are fully compensated for any damage caused to their wheelchair or mobility scooter during a domestic UK flight.
Currently, airlines are not required to cover repair costs, even if the device was damaged while in their care.
Caroline Stickland,at disabled-led campaign group Transport for All, hopes the proposal is the start of wider change in the industry: “Having your wheelchair or mobility aid lost or damaged by an airline doesn’t just put a damper on a holiday. It can mean a total loss of independence and mobility. Much more needs to be done to safeguard against this, including fair recourse to compensation for disabled passengers.
“We welcome these proposals and hope they mark the start of further positive changes in this area so that disabled people, whatever their access requirements, can travel with security and confidence when using airlines.”
24 January: Govt to drop tests for vaccinated travellers
The government has announced that all testing measures for fully vaccinated travellers arriving in the UK will be removed from 4am on 11 February in time for the half-term holidays.
Arrivals who are not recognised as fully vaccinated will, from this date, only need to take a pre-departure test and a PCR test on or before day 2 after they arrive in the UK. This means the requirement to self-isolate and take a day 8 test will be removed.
All passengers, vaccinated or otherwise, will still need to complete a Passenger Locator Form.
For inward travel, all under-18s regardless of their individual vaccination status will continue to be considered as fully vaccinated.
From 3 February, children aged 12-15 in England who are departing from the UK will be able to prove their vaccination status or proof of prior infection via a digital NHS COVID Pass from 3 February for outbound travel. This is intended to make it easier for children and families to travel to countries which require proof of vaccination or prior infection to gain entry, avoid isolation, or access venues or services.
The government stated: “The framework set out today is intended to be one that will last. It aims to provide stability for travellers and the travel industry throughout 2022, ensuring the UK remains one of the best places in the world to do business.
“Meanwhile, friends and families can make the most of their global connections, while saving around £100 for the average family with the removal of testing.”
Also from 4am on 11 February, the UK will recognise vaccine certificates from 16 further countries and territories at the border, including China and Mexico. This will bring the total list to over 180 countries worldwide. You can access the full list of eligible countries and territories here.
20 January: UK ‘planning to drop tests for vaccinated travellers’
Press reports suggest the UK government could next week drop the requirement for fully-vaccinated travellers arriving in England to take a Covid test on or before Day 2 of their return. They would still need to complete a passenger locator form.
At present, the requirement is to take either a lateral flow or PCR test after arrival, and to take a confirmatory PCR test if the result is positive.
Fully vaccinated is likely to mean those who have had two shots. The definition could be extended to include those who have had a booster jab later in the spring.
It is thought the rules for vaccinated travellers will remain as they are, meaning they will be required to take a negative Covid test prior to setting off for England, and to self-isolate and take further tests on Day 2 and Day 8 of their return.
Yesterday the government announced that England would move from Plan B to Plan A from Thursday next week, meaning an end to mask mandates and Covid passes for certain venues.
The requirement to work from home where possible was suspended yesterday.
20 January: Switzerland scraps pre-departure tests for UK travellers
Switzerland will allow fully-vaccinated travellers from the UK to enter the country without proof of a negative PCR or antigen test from Saturday 22 January.
Travellers who can show recent recovery from the virus will also be able to enter without proof of a negative pre-travel test.
UK travellers who have been fully vaccinated or have recovered from Covid-19 will only need to:
- show proof of vaccination or recovery
- complete a passenger locator form (SwissPLF) within 48 hours before entry if they travel by plane or on a long-distance bus service.
An entry ban will still exist for UK travellers who are unvaccinated or who have not recovered from the virus, unless they meet the requirements for exemption.
Travellers who are unvaccinated or who have not recovered from Covid-19 but who can enter Switzerland must continue to take a pre-travel PCR or antigen test and obtain a negative result. However, they will no longer need to take a Covid test four to seven days after arrival.
- complete a passenger locator form (SwissPLF) within 48 hours before entry if they travel by plane or on a long-distance bus service
- present proof of a negative pre-departure test (rapid antigen test completed within 24 hours or PCR test completed within 72 hours before entry).
Children under the age of 16 do not have to take any tests.
14 January: France opens border to fully-vaccinated travellers
Travel to France is now permissible to fully-vaccinated British travellers, opening the prospect of skiing trips and visits to Disneyland Paris in the coming weeks and during February half-term. Around 17 million UK citizens visit France in a normal year.
Travel firms have reported a surge in bookings since the announcement of the change in restrictions was announced earlier this week. The head of Britanny Ferries, Christophe Mathieu, told the BBC’s Today programme that bookings on Thursday were double that of Wednesday.
The new rules are:
- upon departure from the UK, all travellers aged 12 and above, whether vaccinated or not, must present proof of a negative PCR or antigen test taken within 24 hours. The UK government says: “You should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test from a private coronavirus testing provider. Test results must be certified by a laboratory to be accepted.”
- for vaccinated travellers, a compelling reason for travel will no longer be required to enter France, nor will it be necessary to self-isolate upon arrival. Vaccinated travellers will therefore no longer be required to complete the online “éOS-Passager” form. Screening may take place upon arrival
- for non-vaccinated travellers, travel to or from the UK will only be permitted if proof of a compelling reason for travel to “red list countries” is presented
- prior to departure, non-vaccinated travellers arriving from the UK are still required to complete the online “éOS-Passager Form” on which they must include the address where they will be staying in France
- upon arrival in France, they will be strictly required to quarantine at that address for 10 days (this will be enforced by the police).
All passengers travelling to France may be asked to take a Covid test on arrival. Those testing positive will be required to self-isolate for 10 days.
What about children?
Anyone aged 12 and over entering France must present a negative PCR or antigen test that is less than 24 hours old, including those who are fully vaccinated.
For unvaccinated children under 12, the vaccine status of their parents or accompanying guardian applies.
13 January: French travel rules relaxed ‘from tomorrow’
French officials have taken to twitter this morning to announce changes to the rules for those wishing to travel to France.
Alexandre Holroyd, the French Assembly member for Northern Europe, said the entry rules will be relaxed from Friday 14 January for people who are fully vaccinated.
The requirement for there to be a compelling reason for travel to France from the UK will be removed, and there will be no need to self-isolate on arrival in France.
However, travellers will need to take a Covid test (and produce a negative result) within 24 hours of starting their journey to France.
Those who are unvaccinated will still need a ‘compelling reason’ to travel to France along with a negative test. They will also need to register on France’s digital platform before departure, and quarantine for 10 days on arrival.
More on travel to France can be found here.
12 January: France to reduce border restrictions “very soon”
France looks set to relax its border restrictions, which currently ban travel between the country and the UK unless for compelling reasons.
UK tourists have missed out on ski holidays in the French mountains over Christmas as the ban came into force on 17 December, in response to the wave of Omicron cases in the UK.
However, it looks as if trips to the French slopes may still be possible this winter, including the half-term break in February, which is traditionally popular with families.
Alexandre Holroyd, the French Assembly member for Northern Europe, who is responsible for French expats living in the UK, informed of upcoming changes to travel rules on his Twitter page on 11 January, saying “considerable reductions” in border restrictions will be announced “very soon”.
11 January: Tenerife raises alert level to ‘Very high risk’
Tenerife upgraded its alert level to ‘very high risk’ on Monday after a surge in coronavirus cases. Travellers visiting the largest of the Canary Isles will now be subject to the following ‘level 4’ restrictions:
- Rule of six: you can only meet in groups of up to six indoors and outdoors unless you are from the same household.
- Tables of six: you can only sit with a maximum of five other people at a table.
- Covid passes for entry to establishments: you are required to present either a paper or electronic copy of your Covid pass – NHS COVID Passes are accepted – at restaurants, hospitality venues, night venues, cinemas and theatres with a capacity of more than 30, events and celebrations with a capacity of more than 500 and at all gyms or similar venues.
- Midnight closing: you are required to leave restaurants and hospitality venues at 0:00am.
The measures are expected to last until at least 20 January.
Entry requirements to Tenerife for UK travellers
Tenerife has the same entry rules as mainland Spain. Currently, only fully-vaccinated travellers are permitted entry.
To travel to Tenerife you must:
- fill in and sign a Health Control Form (online or in paper format) before departure
- on arrival show the QR Code from your Health Control Form
- show proof that you received your full course of your Covid-19 vaccine at least 14 days prior to arrival unless exempt due to your EU citizenship or for another qualifying reason.
Note that you may be subject to additional checks on arrival, from a temperature check to a visual health assessment.
You may also be required to take a Covid test up to 48 hours after arrival. More information can be found on the Spanish government’s website.
Everyone (excluding children under the age of 12 years old) arriving in Tenerife who has visited a ‘risk country’ in the previous 14 days must meet the requirements on the Spanish Ministry of Health Travel and COVID-19 page.
10 January: France allows travel to and from UK for essential work
France has relaxed its border restrictions to allow travel to and from the UK for work purposes that require an on-site presence and which cannot be postponed.
This is the second move made by the French government to make travel between the UK and France easier, after it imposed an entry ban on most UK travellers, including those travelling for work and leisure, on 17 December 2021.
On 30 December, France announced that British citizens living elsewhere in the EU may travel through France to return to their homes from the UK, though only as a temporary measure (see story below).
All other travel restrictions instated on 17 December still apply. More information can be found on the French Interior Ministry website, which has an English language option.
7 January: Pre-Departure Tests No Longer Required To Enter UK If Vaccinated
From today, fully vaccinated travellers heading to the UK no longer need to take a Covid-19 ‘pre-departure’ test before setting off.
Previously, a negative test was required, with those testing positive not being allowed to travel.
The change has triggered a surge in international travel bookings by holidaymakers who no longer have to worry about the prospect of testing positive and thus being marooned abroad and forced into quarantine at their own expense.
First announced on Tuesday for travellers to England, the change has now been adopted by Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
In addition, inbound travellers to the UK will no longer need to self-isolate on their return. They will still be required to take a Covid test on or before day 2 of their arrival in the UK, but from Sunday morning, it will be permissible to take a lateral flow test rather than a more expensive PCR test, again reducing expenditure.
The lateral flow tests must be booked with a private supplier – free NHS tests will not be accepted to reduce strain on domestic supplies.
If the test is positive, a free NHS confirmatory PCR test is required.
The rules for non-vaccinated travellers have not changed, meaning they will be required to take the pre-departure test while still abroad, and on their return enter self-isolation for 10 days, with PCR tests on days 2 and 8.
All travellers, regardless of vaccination status, must continue to complete a Passenger Locator Form ahead of setting off to the UK.
5/6 January: Vaccinated Travellers To UK Escape Pre-Departure Tests From Friday
The UK government announced, on 5 January, a series of changes to the requirements for travellers arriving in England.
These changes have since been adopted by the devolved authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Grant Shapps, transport secretary, said: “We’re removing the temporary extra testing measures we introduced last year at the border to slow cases of Omicron coming to the UK.
“Now that Omicron is the dominant variant and is widespread in the UK, these measures are no longer proportionate.”
From 4am on Friday 7 January, fully vaccinated passengers and under-18s will no longer need to take a pre-departure test before returning to the UK or self-isolate on arrival but must continue to take their post-arrival tests.
Previously, those who returned a positive pre-departure test would not be permitted to travel.
Additionally, from 4am Sunday 9 January, fully vaccinated passengers and over-5s arriving in the UK will now only need to take a lateral flow test, not a PCR test. The lateral flow test must be booked before before travel and taken on or before day 2 of arrival in England.
Lateral flow tests for travel can be booked from Friday 7 January.
Free NHS lateral flow tests cannot be used for international travel to protect NHS capacity. Lateral flow tests for international travel must be purchased from a private provider. Passengers who have already bought a PCR to use for travel do not need to buy another test as PCRs can still be used.
It will not be permissible to use a lateral flow test until after 4am, Sunday 9 January. Before 4am Sunday 9 January, travellers must use a PCR test after arrival.
Mr Shapps said: “If your post-arrival lateral flow test comes out positive, you must self-isolate and take a free NHS PCR test to confirm the result.
“By reducing testing requirements for fully vaccinated passengers to just a lateral flow test post-arrival, we’re supporting the safe reopening of international travel.”
He promised a full review of travel measures by the end of January “to ensure a stable system is in place for 2022”.
Mr Shapps did not mention any change to the rules that apply to those who are not fully vaccinated, so they will still be required to take a pre departure test (and not travel if it is positive), enter quarantine for 10 days on their return and take PCR tests on Day 2 and Day 8.
Germany relaxes entry restrictions for UK travellers
Following changes made earlier this week, Germany is open once again to UK travellers.
This comes little more than two weeks after the UK was classed by Germany as ‘an area of variants of concern’. This resulted in an entry ban on UK travellers due to fears about the rapid spread of the Omicron variant.
The UK’s Covid status has now been downgraded and it is now classed as ‘high risk’, which brings fewer restrictions for fully vaccinated and Covid-recovered travellers. They can travel to Germany for any purpose, without the need to quarantine on arrival.
Travellers who are not fully vaccinated are subject to a 10-day quarantine. However, they have the option for test and release on day five of their arrival to potentially end quarantine early.
All travellers should complete a pre-departure digital registration form. Fully-vaccinated travellers are required to upload proof of their vaccination status to this system.
Anyone over the age of six, fully vaccinated or unvaccinated should provide proof of a negative PCR test taken within 48 hours before departing the UK, whether travelling to Germany via plane, train, bus or ferry.
Children five years of age and under are allowed to enter Germany from the UK without a negative test as long as they are with at least one fully-vaccinated parent.
However, they will need to quarantine for five days on arrival unless they are visiting a parent or full sibling in Germany and have spent less than 72 hours in a high risk area such as the UK or will spend less than 72 hours in Germany.
France rescinds temporary transit ban for EU-based Brits
The French Interior Ministry has confirmed that British citizens living in the EU are allowed to travel through France to return to their homes from the UK, after much confusion over the Christmas period.
British nationals with residency in EU countries beyond France, including those who took a festive break in the UK, were left unsure whether they could return home after France tightened its entry restrictions in December 2021.
The change, implemented on Friday 17 December, banned most UK travellers from entering France, including those travelling for leisure or work, and prompted the UK Foreign Office to state: “The French government have indicated that UK nationals travelling from the UK who are not resident in France will not be permitted to transit France to return to their country of residence unless they are travelling by air.”
However, the French Interior Ministry tweeted on 30 December: “Instructions of tolerance have been put in place in order to allow these nationals to transit through France to reach their residence in a country of the European Union, during this Christmas and New Year period.”
Eurotunnel has also updated its site, stating: “Passengers travelling from the UK, with residency permits for other EU countries under the Withdrawal Agreement, can now transit through France to return to their homes. This is subject to their journey to the UK having been completed before 28 December 2021.”
While the Ministry says this new measure will be temporary, it has not yet stated when it will come to an end.
Germany Follows France In Banning Most UK Travellers
From 00.00am local time on Monday 20 December (11pm Sunday 19 December in the UK), Germany will restrict entry from the UK so that only German citizens, those with residency rights and a limited number of exempt individuals will be admitted.
The change follows the imposition of a similar set of restrictions on UK travellers by France on Saturday (see below).
All those travelling to Germany, regardless of vaccination status, will need to show proof of a negative PCR test and all will be required to quarantine for 14 days on arrival.
The move comes after the UK was designated an ‘area of variants of concern’ – a reference to the Omicron variant, which is now established in the UK.
In a statement, the German government said: “Before departure, please be prepared for your carrier (e.g. airline) to require from you an up-to-date PCR test if you spent time in an area of variants of concern at any time in the ten days prior to entry. After your arrival, further PCR testing may be ordered by the health authorities at the airport or at the place of isolation/quarantine.
“Please be aware of the 14-day quarantine requirement, which also applies to vaccinated and recovered individuals. The duration of the 14-day quarantine may not be shortened.”
The current list of designated areas will remain in force until 3 January 2022 but may be extended, and the list can change at any time with minimal notice.
France To Tighten Restrictions On UK Travellers
The French government is tightening the restrictions and requirements for people travelling to France from the UK from Saturday morning at 00.00am local time (11pm, Friday 17 December in the UK). The action is being taken because of the rapid spread of the Omicron variant in the UK.
The French government is reintroducing the need for travellers to have an extenuating reason to travel between the UK and France. The authorities have listed acceptable reasons for travel here. Travelling for leisure or work purposes will be banned.
French citizens, their partners and children and UK citizens with French residency will be permitted to travel, as will EU citizens travelling to their home country through France.
Anyone from the UK who is travelling to another country via transiting in France will only be allowed to stay within the international area of an airport for a maximum of 24 hours.
Those who are able to travel to France from the UK will need to show evidence of a negative test (PCR or lateral flow) at their point of departure, taken within the past 24 hours. This already applies to non-vaccinated travellers.
Additionally, all UK travellers must register where they will be staying online. They will have to quarantine for 48 hours at a place of their choice. They can end quarantine after 48 hours with a negative test (PCR or lateral flow).
This applies to the vaccinated and non-vaccinated.
UK transport secretary Grant Shapps has tweeted that hauliers will be exempt from the requirements.
The rules change has been greeted with dismay by the travel industry. Mark Tanzer, chief executive of the Association of British Travel Agents, said: “This will come as a hammer blow to the winter travel industry, which is already under extreme pressure following the new Omicron restrictions. The winter sports and school travel markets are particularly exposed, and the government must now bring forward a support package if we are not to see company failures and job losses.
“The travel and tourism sector has had little chance to generate income since early 2020 and is now faced with another wave of cancellations.
“Travel businesses have reported turnover at just 22% of pre-pandemic levels following two years of government-imposed restrictions, and consumer confidence in overseas travel has been hit hard. Any government review of business support to address the impacts of Omicron must include as a priority travel agents and tour operators.”
15 December: All Countries Removed From Red List
The government removed all 11 countries from its travel Red List from 4am today, Wednesday 15 December. Anyone arriving in England from these countries will no longer be required to book and stay in a government-managed quarantine facility at their own expense.
The devolved nations generally adopt the same procedures at the UK government.
The 11 countries concerned are Nigeria, South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, and Angola.
The UK government has concluded that, now there is community transmission of the Omicron variant in the UK and Omicron has spread so widely across the world, the travel Red List is now less effective in slowing the incursion of Omicron from abroad.
The government is to retain its temporary testing measures for international travel, meaning all travellers must present a negative test before travelling to the UK, complete a Passenger Locator Form and take a PCR test on or before day 2 after they arrive.
Non-vaccinated travellers must additionally take a PCR test on or before day 8 and self isolate for 10 days at home or another address,
Grant Shapps, transport secretary, has stressed that the Red list, although empty from tomorrow, will remain in place: “We keep all our travel measures under review and we may impose new restrictions should there be a need to do so to protect public health.”
On the question about what happens to those already in a government quarantine facility, the government has said anyone who has tested positive will need to continue to stay in managed quarantine.
It is “working urgently” to make arrangements for individuals to be released early release from managed quarantine. It said: “We will set out further guidance for the affected individuals imminently.
“Passengers who booked a hotel room in managed quarantine for after 4am Wednesday 15 December are entitled for a full refund and should contact their hotel operator or booking operator.”
14 December: UK Extends Covid Pass To 12-15 Year-Olds “To Give Parents Confidence To Book Holidays”
Children in England aged 12 to 15 are now able to demonstrate their coronavirus vaccination status for international travel purposes using the NHS Covid Pass.
Speaking in the House of Commons on 13 December, Sajid Javid, health secretary, said: “From today, I can confirm the NHS Covid pass is being rolled out to 12-15 year olds for international travel, allowing even more people to be able to prove their vaccine status for travel where it’s needed.”
He later added: “This will give parents confidence in booking holidays in the future thanks to our fantastic vaccination programme. Parents can be reassured they will be able to evidence their child’s vaccination status once they have had both doses of the vaccine.”
Children remain exempt from certification in domestic settings in England and at the UK border.
The Pass will allow those children who have had both doses of an approved vaccine to travel to countries, including Spain and Canada, which require 12-15 year olds to be fully vaccinated to gain entry, avoid isolation, or access venues or services.
Proof of vaccination will initially be provided via a letter that will include an internationally-recognised barcode. A digital service via NHS.uk is promised for early next year. The letter service can be accessed by calling 119 or via NHS.uk, with applicants told to expect a delivery period of seven days.
England’s vaccination programme is being extended to offer all children aged 12-15 a second dose of an approved vaccine no sooner than 12 weeks after the first dose. The government decided in November to accept advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation to extend the vaccination programme to those aged 12 and above.
Mr Javid also provided details of the expanded and accelerated booster roll-out in England first announced by the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, on Sunday evening. Over the weekend, the UK’s Covid Alert was raised to 4, its second-highest level, and NHS England has announced it will return to Level 4 National Incident, its highest level of emergency preparedness.
According to Mr Javid, no variant of COVID-19 has spread as fast as the Omicron variant. He said there are 4,713 confirmed cases of Omicron in the UK, with the UK Health Security Agency estimating that the current number of daily infections are around 200,000.
He added: “We can expect those numbers to dramatically increase in the days and weeks that lie ahead.”
The booster programme in England will see every adult who has had a second dose of the vaccine at least three months ago offered the chance to get their booster before the end of December, either at a walk-in centre or via a booking on the NHS website.
Anyone over 18 can walk in to a vaccination centre and from Wednesday, they can book online via the NHS website.
Mr Javid said the UK government will provide whatever support is needed to accelerate vaccinations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. The Welsh government has pledged to offer the booster to all citizens in Wales by the year end.
Plan B vote
On Tuesday, Parliament will vote on the introduction of Plan B in England. This would mean that, in addition to working from home where possible and wearing face-masks in shops, hairdressers, beauty salons, cinemas and theatres, it would be mandatory to show a negative lateral flow test to get into nightclubs and large events, with an exemption for the double vaccinated.
Mr Javid said: “Once all adults have had a reasonable chance to get their booster jab, we intend to change this exemption to require a booster dose.”
This change would come into effect on Wednesday if the government succeeds in winning the vote. It is expected to do so despite a rebellion among as many as 70 of its own MPs because opposition parties have vowed to back the new laws.
There have also been suggestions that the government will in the coming days relax rules affecting those travelling into the UK so that, for example, they would not be required to quarantine in a government-approved facility for 10 days on return from a Red list country.
Speculation also surrounds the future of the Red list itself given that omicron is prevalent around the world.
10 December: Heathrow Boss Pleads For Removal Of Restrictions
The boss of London Heathrow airport is calling on the government to remove international travel requirements and restrictions to encourage people to fly.
John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow’s CEO, said the requirement for those travelling to the UK to take a Covid test before departure, introduced on Tuesday, has already affected traffic levels: “We’re seeing a high level of cancellations by business travellers concerned about being trapped overseas because of pre-departure testing. This shows the potential harm to the economy of travel restrictions.”
Travellers must present proof of a negative PCR or lateral flow test taken in the 48 hours before departure before being allowed to board their flight to the UK. This applies to all aged 12 or above, regardless of vaccination status.
Mr Holland-Kaye said the new travel restrictions have further dampened passenger confidence, with demand for flights out of the airport down by 60% on pre-pandemic levels. This is despite the boost provided by the reopening of routes to the US on 8 November.
He also wants to see the government allow UK nationals from red list countries to isolate at home, rather than in a government-approved quarantine facility: “By allowing Brits to isolate at home, ministers can make sure they are reunited with their loved ones this Christmas.
“It would send a strong signal that restrictions on travel will be removed as soon as safely possible to give passengers the confidence to book for 2022. Let’s reunite families for Christmas.”
At a press conference on Wednesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the way the Red list operates would be reviewed in the coming days, but he did not say when (see story below). At present there are 11 countries in southern Africa on the list, with Nigeria the latest to be added on Monday.
Heathrow is forecasting a slow start to 2022 and says it expects to see 45 million passengers in the year as a whole – just over half of the airport’s pre-pandemic levels. The Civil Aviation Authority and the airlines’ international trade body, IATA, have predicted that global passenger numbers in 2022 will be about 60% of 2019 levels.
Mr Holland-Kaye said: “We do not expect that international travel will recover to 2019 levels until at least all travel restrictions, including testing, are removed from all the markets that we serve, at both ends of the route, and there is no risk of new restrictions, such as quarantine, being imposed. This is likely to be several years away.”
8 December: PM Johnson Suggests Review Of Red List Protocols
At a press conference on Wednesday evening, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the UK government may review its Red list procedures because of concerns about the costs borne by fully-vaccinated travellers coming to the UK of obligatory quarantine in government-approved hotels at their own expense.
Rachel, a member of the public from Essex, asked Mr Johnson: “Why can’t fully-vaccinated British travellers stuck in Red list countries self-isolate at home when they return instead of a hotel? Quarantine hotels are too expensive, especially as (recent changes to the Red list) were implemented at short notice, not giving travellers a chance to get home.”
At the moment, only UK and Irish citizens and residents are allowed to enter the UK from a Red list country. The cost of a mandatory stay at a government-sanctioned facility for the required period is:
- 10 days (11 nights) for one adult: £2,285
- Additional adult (or child over 11): £1,430
- Children aged five to 11 £325.
The Prime Minister responded by saying this was a fair challenge, especially given the spread of the Omicron variant worldwide, not just in Red list countries: “We will be looking at the Red list and the way we do it. But it’s been important in our response to Omicron to have very tough border measures to slow the arrival of the variant in this country. That is the objective of the (Red list) measures.”
The current Red list has 11 countries: Nigeria, South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, and Angola.
Also at the press conference, Mr Johnson announced that, from Monday 13 December, people in England will be encouraged to work from home if at all possible.
He also said masks will be required in England in indoor public venues such as theatres and cinemas from Friday 10 December, while nightclubs and other venues with large numbers of attendees in England will only be open to those able to show proof of vaccination via their NHS Covid pass, or evidence of a negative test result, as of Wednesday next week.
7 December: Negative UK Entry Tests Needed From Today
All travellers entering the UK aged 12 and above are now required to show a negative PCR or lateral flow test before setting off on their journey. This applies regardless of the individual’s vaccination status, with tests having to be taken within 48 hours of departure.
Airlines, ferry operators and train companies have been told not to allow anyone to travel without a test or with a positive result.
Sajid Javid, health and social care secretary, told the House of Commons last night that the government is concerned about the spread of the Omicron variant in the UK and around the world: “We don’t yet have a complete picture of whether Omicron causes more severe disease or how it interacts with the vaccine, and so we can’t say for certain whether Omicron has the potential to knock us off our road to recovery.
“We’re leaving nothing to chance. Our strategy is to buy ourselves time and strengthen our defences while our scientists assess this new variant and what it means for our fight against COVID-19.”
In addition to the tougher pre-departure testing rules in place from 04.00am this morning, the government added Nigeria to the travel Red list from yesterday (Monday). This means UK and Irish citizens/residents from there and 10 other countries in southern Africa will need to enter quarantine in a managed government facility for 10 days/11 nights on entering the UK, at their own expense.
Anyone who’s not a UK or Irish citizen or resident who’s been in Nigeria for the previous 10 days, will be refused entry.
Mr Javid said the government is “ramping up capacity as quickly as possible” to provide the required accommodation: “We’ve already brought several new hotels on board in the past few days and we expect to double the number of rooms that are available this week.”
Talking about the new pre-departure test requirement, Mr Javid acknowledged that they would bring disruption and affect people’s plans to spend time with their loved ones over the festive period: “But we’re taking early action now so we don’t have to take tougher action later on and so we can take every opportunity to prevent more cases from arriving in our country.”
He stressed the new measures are temporary and said he would provide further updates next week.
5 December: UK To Require Tests Before Inbound Travel, Adds Nigeria To Red List
From 4am on Tuesday 7 December, anyone wishing to travel/return to the UK from countries and territories not on the Government’s Red list must show proof of a negative PCR or lateral flow (LFD) pre-departure test, taken up to 48 hours before departure.
This new rule, brought in because of concerns about the spread of the Omicron variant, applies to all travellers aged 12 and above, regardless of their vaccination status.
Passengers will not be allowed to board a flight without providing evidence of a negative test result. Airlines will be required to check for pre-departure tests alongside a completed passenger locator form.
Scientists have told the government that Omicron has a reduced incubation period, meaning anyone who is infected will become infectious sooner. Passengers are advised to take the pre-departure test as close as possible to their scheduled departure to the UK and no earlier than 48 hours before travelling.
These are described as temporary measures to be reviewed on 20 December.
Those arriving from Red list countries are required to enter managed quarantine for 10 days/11 nights and undergo testing on days two and eight.
Nigeria has been added to the Red list, meaning that, from Monday 6 December at 4am, UK and Irish citizens and residents arriving from Nigeria must isolate in a government-approved facility for 10 days.
Non-UK and non-Irish citizens and residents who have been in Nigeria in the last 10 days will be refused entry into the UK. This does not apply to those who have stayed airside and only transited through Nigeria while changing flights.
Last weekend, 10 countries in southern Africa were added to the Red list (see below) and it was announced that all vaccinated passengers arriving in the UK must take a day two PCR test and self-isolate until they receive a negative result.
4 December: Switzerland Removes All Countries From Covid Watch-List
The Swiss authorities have announced that, from 4 December, there are no countries on its list of countries with a variant of concern. This means the quarantine requirement for people arriving in Switzerland from countries on the list no longer applies.
All those travelling to Switzerland must complete an entry form.
Those wishing to enter Switzerland will need to produce a negative PCR test result obtained within 72 hours of travel before they depart – travel will not be permitted otherwise. A negative test result will also be required on entry to the country, with a further PCR test or rapid antigen test to be taken between the 4th and 7th day after entry.
The test result, either positive or negative, and the number of the entry form or a copy of the contact card must be notified to the relevant canton.
These testing rules apply to all travellers, whatever their vaccination status, and regardless of whether they have recovered from coronavirus.
Travellers are also liable for all the costs associated with testing.
US To Require Negative Tests From Monday
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced the following:
“All air passengers 2 years or older with a flight departing to the US from a foreign country at or after 12:01am EST (5:01am GMT) on December 6, 2021, are required show a negative COVID-19 viral test result taken no more than 1 day before travel, or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the past 90 days, before they board their flight.”
Air passengers will also be required to confirm in the form of an attestation that the information they present is true.
If your test is positive, you will not be allowed to travel to the US. The CDC says that, if you return a positive test result: “You should self-isolate and delay your travel if you develop symptoms or your pre-departure test result is positive until you have recovered from COVID-19. Airlines must refuse to board anyone who does not present a negative test result for COVID-19 or documentation of recovery.”
See entry below for 8 November for additional information about travel to the US from the UK.
France To Require Negative Tests From Saturday
The French authorities have announced that, from Saturday 4 of December, fully vaccinated travellers from the UK (12 years or older), and whatever their nationality, will have to provide the result of a negative PCR or antigen test (in paper or digital format) carried out less than 48h hours prior to departure.
Self-administered tests, including NHS tests, are not considered valid for travel, so a private contractor must be used.
Prior to departure, fully vaccinated travellers entering France from the UK will need to present to their transport company:
- the result of a negative PCR or antigen test (in paper or digital format) carried out less than 48h hours prior to departure. This extends to those aged 12 and above.
- A sworn statement certifying the absence of COVID-19 symptoms and of any contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the 14 days prior to their crossing.
- Proof of vaccination.
If you are travelling with a printed PDF proof of vaccination status, it must date from 1 November to ensure the certificate can be scanned successfully. NHS appointment cards from vaccination centres are not intended to be used as proof of vaccination and should not be used to demonstrate vaccine status in this circumstance.
People vaccinated in the UK can import their NHS QR code into the TousAntiCovid app. You can also present a digital or paper NHS certificate showing your full vaccine status.
Travellers who are not vaccinated, must give a compelling reason to be allowed to enter France (such as being a French resident. Those with second homes in France will not be admitted).
Unvaccinated travellers must also provide:
- If they are 12 years old or more, and whatever their nationality, the result of a negative PCR or antigen test (in paper or digital format) carried out less than 24 hours prior to departure. Self-administered tests are not considered valid for travel.
- A sworn statement certifying the absence of COVID-19 symptoms and of any contact with a confirmed case of COVID-19 in the 14 days prior to their crossing.
- A sworn undertaking to take an antigen test or biological examination on arrival in France.
- A sworn undertaking to self-isolate for seven days on arrival in France, and then to take a second PCR test at the end of that self-isolation period.
Travellers from Northern Ireland (whatever their nationality) entering France via the Republic of Ireland must abide by the rules applicable to the UK.
Norway Testing All Travellers At Border
Norway has introduced stricter test requirements at its border in a bid to delay and limit the spread of the new Omicron virus variant.
From today, 3 December, any person who arrives in Norway must take a test, regardless of their vaccination status.
Ingvild Kjerkol, health minister, said: “The infection rate in Norway is serious. We need to implement stricter measures to delay the spread of the Omicron variant. We are doing this to keep control, obtain more knowledge about the new virus variant, and to prevent the health service from becoming overwhelmed.”
Where there is a test centre at the border crossing point, the test must be taken there or at a place indicated by the authorities for testing. If there is no test centre at the border crossing point when the traveller crosses the border, the test must be taken within 24 hours of arrival.
When this is the case, the traveller will be free to choose between taking a rapid antigen test at a public test centre or a rapid antigen test as a self-test. If the rapid antigen test returns a positive result, regardless of whether it was taken at a test centre or as a self-test, the person will have a statutory duty to take a PCR test as soon as possible, and no later than within 24 hours.
The requirement also applies to people who are fully vaccinated and people who have recovered from COVID-19.
Those testing positive will need to self-isolate for 10 days.
Arriving travellers over the age of 12 must wear a face covering in public areas where it is not possible to avoid close contact until they have received a negative test result.
The prior special exemption from the requirement to take a test upon arrival in Norway for cross-border commuters, aeronautical personnel and hauliers, among others, will be kept.
The tightened measures will be reviewed in 2 weeks. You can find out more on the Norwegian government website.
Portugal Tightens Entry Rules, Requires Negative Test
The Portuguese authorities have responded to the emergence of the Omnicron coronavirus variant by declaring a State of Calamity on the Portuguese mainland from 1 December 2021. There is now a requirement for a negative COVID-19 test to enter Portugal.
Travellers to mainland Portugal are required to complete an online passenger locator card and be prepared to show a negative COVID-19 test result certificate (except children aged 11 or under).
Your test certificate should meet the following criteria:
- an antigen test taken within 48 hours of departure, or a RT-PCR test taken within 72 hours of departure. If you have an antigen test, make sure it meets the standards set out in the EU common list of Rapid Antigen Tests
- check your test result identifies the type of test taken and gives your name, date of birth, the date and time the sample was collected and the date of the result
- you should not use the NHS testing service to get a test in order to facilitate your travel to another country. You should arrange to take a private test.
- Here is a government list of approved PCR test providers. Prices start at around £40 – £50 per test.
Your airline may deny boarding if you cannot show one of these documents when you check-in for your flight. Check with your airline before you travel.
On arrival in mainland Portugal
You will be subject to health screening on arrival. If your temperature is 38ºC or over or you show signs of being unwell, you may be required to take a COVID-19 test and remain at the airport until you receive your test result.
You should be ready to show your COVID-19 vaccination certificate or negative COVID-19 test at border control, if requested.
Those who have travelled from or transited through any of the following countries in the 14 days prior to arrival in Portugal will have to self-isolate for 14 days: South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini (former Swaziland), Lesotho, Namibia, Zimbabwe or Mozambique.
If you attempt to enter mainland Portugal and you do not have a negative COVID test result, you may be made to pay for a test at your own expense at the airport, and additionally pay a fine of between €300-800 (£250 – £680).
If the result is positive, you may be returned to your country of origin or made to quarantine for 14 days at your own accommodation or at a place indicated by the Portuguese health authority.
The rules on quarantining apply to passengers arriving by air, road, rail or sea.
1 December: Ireland To Introduce Negative Test Requirement For All Travellers
The Irish government has announced that, from Sunday 5 December 2021, all arrivals aged 12 and over who are fully vaccinated or recovered from COVID-19 must provide either of the following:
- A negative or not detected antigen test (taken within 48 hours before arrival)
- A negative or not detected RT-PCR test (taken within 72 hours before arrival).
The test result must be certified and not self-administered.
Those who are not fully vaccinated or recovered must show a negative or not detected RT-PCR test taken within 72 hours before their arrival.
Previously, Ireland did not require travellers with documentary evidence of full vaccination or recovery from infection to produce negative test results. The new requirement extends to UK citizens.
Everyone arriving in Ireland must complete a Passenger Locator Form before boarding a flight or taking a boat to Ireland. Travellers must also have one of the following when they arrive in Ireland:
- An EU Digital COVID Certificate that shows you are fully vaccinated with an EMA approved vaccine, or have recovered from COVID-19 in the past 180 days
- Other acceptable proof that you have been fully vaccinated with an approved vaccine, or you have recovered from COVID-19
- Proof of a negative RT-PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before your arrival.
1 December: Red List Now 10 Countries, Day 2 PCR Tests For All, Spain Bars Unvaxed
The UK government’s coronavirus Red list now has 10 countries: South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia, which were added to the list on Thursday 25 November, and Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Angola – which were added on Saturday 27 November.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Development Office is advising against all but essential travel to the countries on the Red list. Anyone who travels against such advice is likely to invalidate their travel insurance.
Non-UK residents will not be allowed to enter the country if they have previously been in the listed countries in the past 10 days.
UK and Irish residents returning to the UK from Red list countries are required to stay in government-approved quarantine accommodation at their own expense for 10 days/11 nights.
The cost of stays in a quarantine ‘hotel’ is:
- 10 days (11 nights) for one adult: £2,285
- Additional adult (or child over 11): £1,430
- Children aged five to 11 £325.
Other measures are in force from 4am on Tuesday 30 November:
- all international arrivals must self-isolate until they receive a negative result from a PCR test taken before or on Day 2 of their return, regardless of their vaccination status. A negative result brings the requirement to self-isolate to an end. A positive results brings a requirement to self-isolate for 10 days. Tests should be booked prior to return to the UK, with the confirmation code included on your Passenger Locator For. you can go here for a list of approved providers.
- all contacts of suspected Omicron cases must self-isolate, regardless of their vaccination status. They will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace.
- face coverings are compulsory in England in shops, banks, post offices and other premises such as hairdressers and salons, as well as on public transport, bringing England nearer to the rules already in force in Wales and to those in Scotland and Northern Ireland, where it is a requirement to wear a mask in pubs and restaurants unless seated. Hospitality settings in England and Wales are exempt from the requirement.
- The Spanish government has announced that, from 1 December, tourist arrivals to Spain from the UK (excluding children under the age of 12 years old) must present proof of vaccination. Previously, all that was required was proof of a negative test and the completion of a passenger locator form. The move does not affect UK citizens with residency rights in Spain, of whom there are an estimated 300,000.
- Switzerland has also said that UK citizens must have proof of vaccination and proof of a negative COVID-19 test result, which can be a PCR or antigen test, to enter the country. On entry, you must also self-quarantine for 10 days. Those arriving from UK who wish to transit to another country will need to self-quarantine in Switzerland for 10 days.
- Israel has introduced a ban foreign travellers from entering the country from midnight on Sunday 28 November due to Omicron fears. The ban is due to last 14 days.
- Japan has announced that, from 30 November 2021, foreign nationals (including British nationals) who do not have existing resident status are not permitted to enter Japan for any purpose, other than in exceptional circumstances, even if they hold a visa. The ‘exceptional circumstances’ are when someone is deemed to be contributing to the public good or has humanitarian reasons for visiting the country. More information is available on Japan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs website.
You can visit the government travel advice website for further information.
25 November: Red List Back In Spotlight As Six Countries Added
The UK government’s red list of countries deemed high risk because of Covid-19 has risen from zero to six with the addition of South Africa, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Zimbabwe and Namibia from noon on Friday 26 November.
The emergence of the recently identified Omicron variant of the coronavirus has prompted drastic action.
British nationals arriving from the six named countries between mid-day today, Friday 26 November and 4am on Sunday 28 November who have been in these countries within the last 10 days must quarantine at home for 10 days and take NHS PCR tests on Day 2 and Day 8, even if they already have a lateral flow test booking.
Passengers arriving from these countries in England from 4am on Sunday 28 November who have been in these countries within the last 10 days will be required to book and pay for a government-approved hotel quarantine facility for 10 days (see stories below for costs).
They must also take NHS PCR tests on Day 2 and Day 8 of their return, even if they already have a lateral flow test booking.
Direct flights from the six countries will be banned from mid-day on Friday 26 November until sufficient hotel quarantine accommodation is available from 4am Sunday 28 November. The number of quarantine hotel places was reduced earlier this month when the number of countries on the red list of countries was reduced to zero.
From mid-day on Friday 26 November, non-UK and Irish residents who have been in these countries in the previous 10 days will be refused entry into England. This does not apply to those who have stayed airside and only transited through any of these countries while changing flights.
A temporary ban on commercial and private planes travelling from the six countries will also come into force at mid-day on Friday until 4am on Sunday to reduce the risk of importing the new variant under investigation while hotel quarantine is brought up to the required capacity. This excludes cargo and freight without passengers.
The UK government says the additions to the red list are a precautionary move following the designation of a new coronavirus variant which is under investigation by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
In a tweet on Thursday 25 November, British Airways said: “We are aware of news from the Government about a ban on UK flights to South Africa. We will be contacting affected customers and colleagues in and will update our website with the latest information.”
Anyone with flights booked to or from the Red list countries should contact their airline or tour operator for information on what will happen to their arrangements. You should wait for the airline to cancel the flight rather than cancel it yourself.
If the airline cancels a flight it is required to refund the purchase price or offer you are replacement flight. You do not have to accept vouchers. If the flight goes ahead as scheduled but you do not wish to travel, you will have to discuss your options with the airline.
If you have travel insurance you should check the policy document to see what cover is provided in relation to claims arising out of Covid-19. If you are already in one of the countries listed, you may be able to claim for out-of-pocket expenses incurred because you are obliged to stay for longer than planned.
However, because the Foreign & Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) is warning against all but essential travel to these six nations, you are unlikely to be able to claim for the cost of cancellation of future arrangements as most policies specifically exclude this scenario.
Additionally, if you travel to a country against FCDO advice, your policy will likely be rendered invalid and you will not be able to claim for any other reason.
If you have bookings for accommodation or other services, such as hire car, you will need to contact them for information about their cancellation policies.
25 November: New Zealand To Open Borders In Stages Next Year
New Zealand has given details of its next steps for reopening its borders to fully Covid-19 vaccinated tourists and more of its citizens abroad next year.
From 11.59pm on 30 April 2022, New Zealand will open its borders to fully-vaccinated foreign nationals, including Brits. The exact date Brits will be able to enter the country is yet to be confirmed as the re-opening will be phased, possibly by visa category.
The current requirement to enter managed isolation and quarantine will be removed in stages for most travellers but even after 30 April, they will still be required to:
- take a pre-departure test before travelling to New Zealand
- show proof of being fully vaccinated
- make a passenger declaration about travel history
- take a test on arrival
- self-isolate for seven days
- take a final negative test before entering the community.
The move to allow entry to vaccinated tourists will follow:
- the reopening of the borders to fully-vaccinated New Zealand citizens and eligible travellers who have been in either Australia or New Zealand in the previous 14 days from 11.59pm on 16 January 2022
- the reopening of the borders to fully-vaccinated New Zealand citizens and eligible travellers from territories except those classified as ‘very high risk’ from 11.59pm on 16 January 2022.
New Zealand will remove the ‘very high risk’ category from Brazil, Fiji, India, Indonesia and Pakistan in December 2021. Papua New Guinea will remain on the ‘very high risk’ list.
Eligible travellers include:
- New Zealand permanent residents or resident visa holders
- Australian citizens or permanent residence visa holders where New Zealand is your primary place of established residence
- holders of a critical purpose visa.
New Zealand citizens will not need to enter managed isolation and quarantine (MIQ) but will be required to self-isolate for seven days.
Critical purpose reasons to travel include if a traveller is the partner of a New Zealand citizen or resident and is an Australian citizen or permanent resident.
Currently, travellers are not allowed into the country, except under exceptional circumstances.
The stringent entry restrictions on New Zealand’s borders were put in place in March 2020 to curb the spread of Covid-19. It has reported relatively few cases of Covid-19 since the start of the pandemic. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there have been 10,241 cases of Covid-19 in the country and 40 deaths due to the virus.
You can visit the New Zealand government website for more information.
22 November: Australia To Ease Travel Restrictions From December
Restrictions on travel to Australia will be eased next month, meaning some Brits will be able to visit the country for the first time since March 2020.
From Wednesday 1 December, Australia will relax the restrictions on its borders, allowing eligible visa-holders who are skilled workers, students, humanitarians, those on working holidays and provisional visa holders to enter the country.
Can I travel to Australia?
From next week, travellers in the above categories will be able to enter Australia if they:
- are fully-vaccinated with a vaccine approved or recognised by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA)
- hold a valid visa for one of the eligible subclasses
- provide proof of their vaccination status
- take a Covid-19 Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test within 72 hours of their departure.
Travellers will also need to ensure they comply with the quarantine requirements in their destination state or territory.
Australia will also relax its quarantine restrictions for more travellers on 1 December.
Fully-vaccinated tourists from Japan and the Republic of Korea who hold a valid Australian visa will be able to travel to the country, without the need to seek a travel exemption or quarantine.
They will join tourists from New Zealand and Singapore, who have been travelling quarantine-free to Australia since 1 November and 21 November respectively.
Next month’s changes also follow moves on 1 November, which saw fully-vaccinated Australians, permanent residents and their family members allowed to re-enter the country.
19 November: New Destinations Unlocked For Triple-Jabbed
Triple-jabbed travellers will be able to visit more countries following an update to the NHS app today, 19 November.
The NHS COVID Pass can now be used to demonstrate that you’ve had your third ‘booster’ dose of the Covid-19 vaccine, opening up the possibility of travel to countries such as Israel, Croatia and Austria that insist visitors are more recently vaccinated.
Croatia, for example, asks visitors for proof of vaccination within the last 365 days. For UK travellers fully vaccinated more than a year ago, this made travel to the country impossible. With the addition of booster jab records to the NHS app, however, travellers will now be able to meet Croatia and other countries’ requirements.
Booster jabs will show in the digital COVID Pass automatically from midday today for people in England and from 29 November for people in Wales.
The UK has delivered more than 13 million booster jabs to eligible, double-jabbed people so far, and the government is now moving forward with booster jabs for those aged 40-49-years-old.
Sajid Javid, health and social care secretary, said: “This update to the NHS COVID Pass will mean people can have their complete medical picture at their fingertips if they are going on holiday or seeing loved ones overseas.”
Many countries also ask for recent negative PCR tests along with proof of vaccination status. You can check specific countries’ requirements on the government’s travel advice pages.
You can find out more about the NHS app here, including how to download it.
18 November: Red List Review – No Countries Added, List Remains Empty
In a tweet posted today, Grant Shapps MP, secretary of state for transport, said that the government has reviewed its Red List of locations deemed at high risk of Covid-19 transmission and decided not to add any countries or territories to the list.
On 1 November, the number of countries on the Red List fell to zero, but the list is reviewed regularly, and the government says countries will be added if necessary.
Mr Shapps’ tweet added: “We will continue to keep all measures under review.”
Travellers arriving in the UK from a red list country face the severest restrictions, including the requirement to stay in a government-approved quarantine hotel, at their own expense, for 10 nights (see stories below for details). This applies even to those who are vaccinated against coronavirus.
As of Monday 22 November, over 30 countries will be added to the government’s inbound vaccination policy, meaning travellers with approved vaccines from those countries will be on the same footing at those with domestic NHS vaccinations.
9 November: Vaccines list to widen, under-18s travel rules to ease
The UK government has announced that, from 4am on Monday 22 November, it will recognise vaccines on the World Health Organization’s Emergency Use Listing (WHO EUL).
The move means the Sinovac, Sinopharm Beijing and Covaxin vaccines will be added to its list of approved vaccines for inbound travel to the UK. The government says this will be of particular benefit to people travelling from countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and India.
The approved vaccines list currently includes Pfizer BioNTech, Oxford AstraZeneca (including Covishield), Moderna and Janssen (J&J).
The US, which reopened its borders to fully-vaccinated, negative-tested air passengers yesterday (see story below) also recognises the vaccines on the WHO EU listing for inbound travel, as do other countries such as Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and Iceland.
Passengers arriving in the UK who have been fully vaccinated and have received their vaccine certificate from one of over 135 approved countries and territories are no longer required to take a pre-departure test, a day 8 test or self-isolate upon arrival.
The only remaining requirement is that they will need to take a pre-booked lateral flow test from an approved provider before the end of Day 2 of their arrival. Standard NHS tests are not accepted for this purpose. If this test is positive, they will be offered a free confirmatory PCR test.
Additionally, the UK government has said that, from 22 November, all under-18s travelling to England will be treated as fully vaccinated at the border and will be exempt from self-isolation requirements on arrival, day 8 testing and pre-departure testing. They will only be required to take a post-arrival test and a confirmatory free PCR test if they test positive.
Public health across the UK is a devolved matter, but the UK government works closely with the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on any changes to international travel and aims to ensure a whole UK approach.
For details of any different rules in the other UK nations, see the links below:
8 November: US welcomes fully-vaxed UK fliers from today
Air travel to the United States from the UK and over 30 other countries is permissible from today following the lifting of the 600-day ban on the majority of international arrivals, imposed by former President Trump in a bid to reduce the impact of coronavirus.
Travellers aged 18 and over must, with only limited exceptions, be fully vaccinated and must have evidence either of a negative Covid-19 test taken in the days before their flight or of recovery from Covid-19.
Evidence of vaccination includes the NHS COVID Pass and the EU Digital COVID Certificate.
A period of 14 days must have passed since the last dose of vaccine was administered. For example, if your last dose was any time on 1 November, then 15 November. would be the first day that you meet the 14-day requirement.
Travellers are also being urged to take a further test after they arrive in the US, between days three and five of their arrival.
In addition, travellers must wear a mask over their nose and mouth while on a plane and inside US airports.
In terms of testing, the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention said: “Effective November 8, 2021 at 12:01am EST (5:01am GMT), before boarding a flight to the US from a foreign country, all air passengers – 2 years or older – are required to present a negative COVID-19 viral test result, within a time period based on their vaccination status (see table below), or present documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 in the last 90 days.”
Fully-vaccinated travellers can submit a negative test taken within three days of their flight, while unvaccinated travellers must take their test within one day of travelling.
Lateral flow viral tests and PCR tests are both deemed acceptable.
Airlines must refuse to board anyone who does not present a negative test result for COVID-19 or documentation of recovery.
1 November: UK government suspends red list from today
The remaining seven countries on the UK government’s red list of high-risk coronavirus nations and territories – Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela – were removed from the list today, Monday 1 November, at 4am.
However, the red list system itself has not been abolished. Grant Shapps, transport secretary, confirmed on Friday that it can be reinstated at any point if a country’s Covid situation warrants it: “We will keep the red list category in place as a precautionary measure to protect public health and we are prepared to add countries and territories back if needed, as the UK’s first line of defence (against coronavirus).”
The red list will now be reviewed every three weeks.
The suspension of the list means at least some of the government’s network of approved quarantine hotels will remain on standby in case travellers are required to enter strict isolation at some point.
When a country is on the red list, returning travellers are required to stay in such a facility, at their own expense, for 10 days/11 nights (see story below for costs).
Also from Monday 1 November, over 30 new countries and territories, including Argentina, Tanzania, Cambodia, Peru and Uganda, have been added to the UK government’s inbound vaccination policy, which means travellers with approved vaccines from those countries are now on the same footing at those with domestic NHS vaccinations.
This move brings the total number of countries on this list to over 135. You can find the full list here, along with examples of the proof you can provide to show you have been fully-vaccinated with an approved vaccine.
Fully-vaccinated travellers arriving in the UK are not required to self-isolate and must only take a Covid test on or before Day 2 of their arrival. From yesterday, travellers arriving into Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are able to use a pre-booked lateral flow test on Day 2 – this became possible for travellers to England on 24 October.
Lateral flow tests cost upwards of around £20, with PCR tests costing up to three times that amount. Anyone testing positive on Day 2 will be offered a free confirmatory NHS PCR test.
Non-vaccinated travellers aged 18 and over must take a PCR test in the 72 hours before travelling to the UK and must self-isolate on arrival for 10 days, taking further PCR tests on Day 2 and Day 8.
29 October: Rumours suggest UK government will suspend red list
Several news outlets including the BBC are suggesting the UK government will remove the final seven countries from its red list of destinations later today, probably to take effect from Monday 1 November.
Earlier this month, 47 countries were removed from the list, leaving only Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela still deemed to be unsafe because of rates of coronavirus (see stories below).
The current rules means that anyone returning from a red list country must stay in a government-approved quarantine facility for 10 days/11 nights at a cost of £2,285 for an adult, with each additional adult (or child over 11) paying £1,430 and children aged 5 – 11 costing £325.
The bill includes two Covid-19 tests on Day 2 and Day 8.
It remains unclear whether the government will maintain the red list and the associated quarantine hotel system in case the Covid situation in any country deteriorates in the future.
The UK government sets the rules on international travel for England. The authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will decide their approaches separately.
27 October: Budget cuts domestic Air Passenger Duty but previews ‘ultra long-haul’ rate
Chancellor Rishi Sunak MP used his Budget speech today to announce changes to the UK’s Air Passenger Duty regime from 2023.
The government is aiming to boost air travel within the UK through a 50% cut in domestic Air Passenger Duty (APD), from £13 to £6.50. The rate will apply to all flights between airports in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (excluding private jets).
The government says around nine million passengers will pay less APD as a result when the reductions take effect in April 2023.
The government is also introducing a new higher band of APD for ultra-long-haul distance travellers. The international distance bands will from April 2023 be set at 0-2,000 miles, 2,000-5,500 miles and 5,500 miles plus. The rates will be £13, £87 and £91 respectively for economy passengers.
27 October: Thailand extends quarantine-free travel from 1 November
From next Monday (1 November), fully-vaccinated travellers from the UK will be able to enter Thailand without having to quarantine. The move coincides with the country’s peak tourist season, which runs from November to April.
At present, Thailand operates a ‘sandbox’ scheme whereby fully-vaccinated travellers do not have to quarantine after arriving in popular tourist hot-spots such as Phuket, Surat Thani, Phang-Nga and Krabi. But they are then required to stay in these destinations for seven days before being able to travel elsewhere in the country.
As of next week, travellers must show proof of vaccination and produce a negative PCR result obtained within 72 hours prior to departure from the UK.
They must also take a pre-booked Covid-19 PCR test between day 0 and day 1 of their arrival into Thailand. If this result is negative, there are no restrictions on travel within the country.
Travellers must satisfy the following conditions to qualify for quarantine-free entry:
- travel from one of 46 approved countries (including the UK), having been resident there for 21 days or more
- obtain a Certificate of Entry from the Thai government
- provide proof of a negative PCR result taken within 72 hours of departure
- possess a travel insurance policy providing a minimum US $50,000 of cover for the potential treatment of Covid-19 and other medical expenses
- show proof of payment for no less than a one-night stay at approved quarantine facilities (this should cover accommodation, the required PCR test and an Antigen Test Kit for use if you show symptoms of coronavirus)
- show proof of vaccination
- have undergone exit screening
- have the Mor Chana tracking app and wait in your accommodation for your day 0-1 PCR test result. This should be available within the day.
Travellers aged under 12 who are travelling with parents/guardians are exempt from the vaccination requirement, but they must provide proof of a negative PCR result.
You can find more information about travel to Thailand on the UK government website, including advice on all but essential travel to regions because of concerns about security and terrorism.
26 October: US confirms requirements for inbound travellers from 8 November
President Joe Biden has confirmed his country’s approach to restrictions on international travel into the United States from 8 November.
Mr Biden said: “It is in the interests of the United States to move away from the country-by-country restrictions previously applied during the COVID-19 pandemic and to adopt an air travel policy that relies primarily on vaccination to advance the safe resumption of international air travel to the United States.”
Airlines will be required to check the vaccination status of travellers before they board their flight to the US. The entry of unvaccinated non-citizen non-immigrants – those who are visiting the US or otherwise being admitted temporarily – is to be suspended.
This means that, in the majority of cases, unvaccinated travellers will not be allowed to board a plane to the US.
US visitor requirements
Starting on 8 November, non-citizen, non-immigrant air travellers (visitors) to the United States will be required to be fully vaccinated and to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination status prior to boarding a plane to fly to the US, with only limited exceptions. If satisfactory proof is not forthcoming, they will not be permitted to fly.
Vaccinated travellers will also need to produce a negative Covid test taken within 72 hours prior to departure.
Unvaccinated travellers – limited to US citizens, lawful permanent residents of the US, or exempt unvaccinated foreign nationals – will need to produce a negative Covid test within one day of departure.
Fully vaccinated foreign nationals will also be able to travel across the Canadian and Mexican land borders for non-essential reasons, such as tourism, starting on 8 November.
What about children?
Children under 18 are exempt from the US vaccination requirement for foreign national travellers. This is because of the ineligibility of some younger children for vaccination and the global variability in access to vaccination for eligible older children.
However, children between the ages of 2 and 17 are required to take a pre-departure test.
If traveling with a fully-vaccinated adult, an unvaccinated child can test three days prior to departure (consistent with the timeline for fully vaccinated adults).
If an unvaccinated child is traveling alone or with unvaccinated adults, they will have to test within one day of departure.
What are the exemptions for those travelling to the US?
The main exemptions from the vaccination requirements are:
- those who have a medical reason for not taking a vaccine
- those who need to travel for emergency or humanitarian reasons (with a US government-issued letter affirming the urgent need to travel)
- those who are traveling on non-tourist visas from countries with low-vaccine availability/
Those who receive an exception will generally be required to comply with applicable public health requirements, including a requirement that they be vaccinated in the US if they intend to stay for more than 60 days.
Anyone unsure of their standing in relation to the new requirements should contact the US embassy for more information.
24 October: Lateral flow option available in England from today
From today, Sunday 24 October, fully-vaccinated travellers arriving in England from a non-red list country are able to submit a lateral flow test to satisfy their Day 2 testing requirement.
The tests – which are significantly cheaper than the previously mandated PCR tests – must be booked online with a government approved supplier.
Lateral flow tests must be taken as soon as possible on the day of arrival in England or at the latest before the end of a passenger’s second day, They can be purchased from as little as £19 via the government website. PCR tests can cost upwards of £60.
Travellers must send a photo of their test result to the private provider. Failure to do so could result in a £1,000 fine. Anyone with a positive result will need to take a free NHS confirmatory PCR test and isolate.
Children under 18 can take a lateral flow test regardless of their vaccine status.
Non vaccinated travellers must continue to take PCR tests on Day 2 and Day 8 while in self-isolation for 10 days.
The changes apply in England. Wales will adopt the same procedures from 31 October. Scotland and Northern Ireland are likely to follow suit but no dates have yet been given for when this will happen.
23 October: Wales Follows England With Lateral Flow Test Option From 31 October
The devolved administration in Wales has announced that, from 31 October, all fully-vaccinated travellers arriving in Wales will be able to take a lateral flow test instead of the current requirement to take a PCR test. The change to make lateral flow tests permissible in England takes effect on 24 October (see below).
With prices starting at around £30, lateral flow tests are roughly half the price of PCR tests. The lateral flow tests must be booked in advance through approved providers. NHS kit tests will not be accepted in either nation.
No announcement has yet been made by the authorities in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Eluned Morgan, Wales’ health minister, said: “From Sunday 31 October all adults in Wales, who have completed their two-dose course of the Covid-19 vaccine, and the majority of under 18s, who have travelled from countries which are not on the red list, will be able to take a lateral flow test, on or before day two of their arrival into the UK.
“If people have a positive lateral flow test on their return from travelling overseas, they will be required to isolate for 10 days and take a follow-up PCR test. People will continue to have the option of booking and taking a PCR test as the required day two test.
“The UK Government will introduce these changes for England on Sunday 24 October. We are unable to introduce the changes at the same time as we have not received sufficient or timely information from the UK Government on how these changes will operate in practice.
“This is not ideal. However, despite the differences for a short period, Welsh residents wishing to travel will be able to do so. The only difference from English residents will be that up until the 31 October Welsh residents will need to continue to book a day 2 PCR test.”
Mr Morgan expressed concern about the UK government’s approach to testing, which dictates the rules in England: “We have consistently urged the UK Government to take a precautionary approach towards reopening international travel. However, it is difficult for us to adopt a different testing regime to that required by the UK Government, as the majority of Welsh travellers enter the UK through ports and airports in England.
“Having different testing requirements would cause significant practical problems, confusion among the travelling public, logistical issues, enforcement at our borders and disadvantages for Welsh businesses.”
He added that decisions about international travel should be taken on a “true four-nation basis. These are decisions which affect people living in all parts of the UK and we cannot make them in isolation of each other.”
22 October: Lateral Flow Tests For Fully-Vaxed Bookable From Today For England
From today, 22 October, fully-vaccinated travellers heading to England from non red list countries can book a lateral flow test to take on or before Day 2 of their arrival. Such tests may be taken from 24 October onwards.
The PCR tests required at present will still be accepted from Sunday, but as they can cost £60 or more and lateral flow tests can cost half that amount, the latter are expected to prove more popular.
List of countries and territories with approved proof of vaccination.
Those who are not fully vaccinated, and all those returning from red list countries, must continue to take PCR tests and adhere to other requirements.
Here’s what you need to do when returning to England (note that the requirements for inbound travellers to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland may differ).
If you are fully-vaccinated, you must – before returning to England – book and pay for a COVID-19 test to be taken before the end of Day 2. You must also complete a passenger locator form in the 48 hours before you arrive in England. You will need to enter your COVID-19 test booking reference number on your passenger locator form.
If your lateral flow test is positive, you must take a PCR test to confirm the result, and you must self-isolate until you get the result. If this is positive, you must self-isolate for 10 full days.
If you booked a PCR test and get a positive result, you will need to self-isolate for 10 days.
If you are not fully-vaccinated, you must, before you travel to England:
After you arrive in England you must:
- quarantine at home or in the place you are staying for 10 full days
- take your COVID-19 PCR tests as outlined above.
If you test positive on your Day 2 or Day 8 test, you must self-isolate for 10 full days.
If you need to quarantine, you may be able to end quarantine early if you pay for a private COVID-19 test through the Test to Release scheme.
Travelling with children
Children of all ages who are resident in the UK, or in a country with an approved proof of vaccination, do not have to quarantine on arrival in England. This applies whether the child is vaccinated or not.
If they are aged 4 and under they do not have to take any COVID-19 travel tests. Those aged 5 to 17 do not have to take a COVID-19 test before travel to England. They must take a test on or before Day 2 and follow the procedures outlined above if this returns a positive result.
20 October: India Opens Doors To Foreign Tourists As Morocco Bans UK Flights
The Indian Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is now granting tourist visas to foreign tourists planning to travel chartered flights organised by tour operators. India closed its borders for foreign nationals in March 2020 at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The MHA has also announced that, from 15 November, tourists entering India by flights other than chartered flights – that is, independent travellers on commercial airlines – will be allowed to enter with new tourist visas. It says visas issued before 6 October 2021, will no longer be valid.
Meanwhile, Morocco has announced as ban on direct flights between the UK and Morocco (as well as Germany and the Netherlands), effective from midnight tonight (20 October) for an unspecified period. More details below.
Travellers to India must submit a self-declaration form on the online Air Suvidha portal and upload an authenticated private (not NHS) negative Covid-19 PCR test result, with the test having been taken up to 72 hours before departure to India.
On arrival in India, travellers will need to complete a PCR test in a designated area of the airport. Those returning negative results will be required to remain in quarantine in a private residence for seven days, after which time another test will be administer.
If this result is negative, the visitor will be released from quarantine but will be required to monitor their health for a further seven days.
Anyone returned a positive result will be accommodated in an institutional isolation facility for treatment.
The same rules apply regardless of the individual’s vaccine status.
Travellers returning to the UK from India will need to follow the rules applicable in their home nation. India is not on the UK’s travel red list, so fully vaccinated returning travellers will need to:
- complete a passenger locator form in the 48 hours before arrival
- book and pay for a Covid-19 test to be taken before the end of Day 2 (from this Friday, 22 October, you’ll be able to book a lateral follow test instead of a more expensive PCR test. Such tests will be permitted from 24 October).
Those not fully-vaccinated must quarantine at home or in the place they are staying for 10 days and take PCR tests on Day 2 and Day 8. See stories below for further information.
Note that special visa rules apply to Pakistani nationals or those with dual British-Pakistani nationality. Details are available from the Indian High Commission.
The Moroccan government is suspending direct flights between the UK and Morocco with effect from midnight tonight (20 October). The ban does not currently have an end-date. Flights from Germany and the Netherlands are similarly affected.
The UK government says travellers affected by flight cancellations should contact their airline or tour operator for advice on alternative routes via third countries such as France and Spain, where flights are operating as normal.
Anyone travelling to Morocco via a third country will need to provide:
- proof they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, with the second dose administered at least two weeks prior to travel, or
- a negative PCR test result before boarding their flight or ferry to Morocco. The result must show that the PCR test itself was undertaken no more than 48 hours before boarding.
- for travel by ferry, travellers will also need to take a COVID-19 test during the journey. Children under the age of 11 are exempt from the PCR testing requirement for entry into Morocco.
On arrival to Morocco, travellers will be asked to present a completed Public Health Passenger form. You can print a copy in advance of travelling.
Travellers transiting through third countries should consult FCDO Travel Advice for that country.
Several thousand UK holidaymakers are thought to be in Morocco. Airlines and tour operators say they will contact customers to discuss whether they want to return immediately or finish their holiday.
It is likely that those with bookings for holidays in Morocco in the coming days and weeks will be offered alternative destinations or refunds.
19 October: Heathrow Passengers Face Steep Climb In Ticket Prices
Travellers flying from London Heathrow airport are facing higher ticket prices after the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) proposed allowing the airport to sharply increase the amount it charges airlines for each passenger they carry.
Currently, the charge is £22 per customer, but the CAA says this should rise to between £24.50 and £34.40 for a five-year period starting in summer 2022. It is running a consultation to determine the precise figure.
But it has agreed an interim charge of £30 per passenger from 1 January, which could see a short-term increase of £8 per ticket if carriers pass on the full increase in their ticket prices.
Heathrow Airport Limited asked the CAA to increase the cap on its charges per passenger to between £32 and £43. It also wanted the interim charge to be set at £38 a head. It wants to increase its revenue-raising capability to make up for losses sustained over the past 18 months, when the number of flights plummeted due to travel bans and other restrictions.
Consultations on the interim price cap and the CAA’s wider proposals for the regulation of Heathrow and its longer-term passenger charging structure will run until 17 November and 17 December 2021 respectively.
Richard Moriarty, head of the CAA, said a balance had to be struck between protecting consumers from unfair charges and allowing Heathrow to generate revenuet: “Our principal objective is to further the interests of consumers while recognising the challenges the industry has faced throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.
“These initial proposals seek to protect consumers against unfair charges, and will allow Heathrow to continue to appropriately invest in keeping the airport resilient, efficient and one that provides a good experience for passengers.”
15 October: US To Open Borders To Fully Vaccinated UK Travellers From 8 November
A spokesperson for the United States government has confirmed that UK nationals will be able to fly to the US from Monday 8 November 2021.
In a tweet on Friday, the assistant press secretary said:
“The US’ new travel policy that requires vaccination for foreign national travelers to the United States will begin on Nov 8. This announcement and date applies to both international air travel and land travel. This policy is guided by public health, stringent, and consistent.”
The current US ban on UK travellers also applies to EU countries and several other nations including China, India and Brazil.
In addition to being fully vaccinated, UK travellers to the US will need to have evidence of a negative test taken in the 72 hours prior to departure, and they will be required to provide contact details in case they need to be traced while in the country.
Tough rules on the wearing of masks during the flight will also be imposed.
It is expected that exemptions may be made to allow unvaccinated children to enter the US with their families.
15 October: Govt Gives Green Light To Cheaper Lateral Flow Tests In Time For Half-Term
The government has announced that, from 24 October 2021, fully vaccinated passengers and most under-18s arriving in England from countries not on the international travel red list can take a lateral flow test, instead of a more expensive PCR test, on or before Day 2 of their arrival into the UK.
The timings mean families returning from school half-term breaks will be able to take advantage of cheaper tests. The tests must be booked through private providers listed on gov.uk – the use of free NHS lateral flow tests will not be accepted for international travellers.
Bookings can be made from 22 October. We’ll update any changes applicable to the rest of the UK when details are announced.
PCR tests can cost upwards of £60-£70 per person, adding significantly to a family’s travel expenses. The bookable lateral flow tests are expected to be priced at nearer £25-£30 each.
Passengers will need to upload a photograph of their test to verify results as soon as possible. If any tests are returned positive, the individual will be offered a free confirmatory NHS PCR test.
It will also be possible to book a test to be taken on arrival into the UK at testing centres located in some airports.
All travellers must complete a Passenger Locator Form prior to travel back to the UK, including a test booking reference number supplied by a testing provider. Travellers will be able to upload their test booking reference to the Passenger Locator Form from 22 October for arrival in the UK from 24 October.
Passengers who are not fully vaccinated with an authorised vaccine returning from a non-red list destination will still need to take a pre-departure test, a PCR test on day 2 and day 8 and complete 10 days self-isolation (with the option of Test to Release on day 5).
Nick Markham of Cignpost Diagnostics says Day 2 lateral flow tests should be carried out in the most robust and secure way possible: “Now that the government has moved to validate results through a photo identification process, we must ensure these are not open to fraudulent submissions. People travelling from abroad must take their test and report their result if positive or negative so we can ensure that every positive lateral flow result is captured and sequenced to any new variants using a follow-up PCR test.
“Our data shows 4 in every 1,000 fully-vaccinated people are testing positive after they arrive in the UK. With no pre-departure tests now required, the number of positive cases among arrivals is set to rise. That’s why it is essential that these (Day 2) tests are undertaken correctly, so individuals who are positive are tracked and asked to isolate. Only this will help to mitigate spread and prevent new variants coming into the country.”
Holidaymakers urged to check destination testing regimes
The reduction in the number of countries on the UK government’s Covid-19 travel red list to seven, which became effective on Monday 11 October (see story below) has opened up the international travel market for UK holidaymakers.
But would-be travellers are being urged to check the Covid testing requirements for their destinations as mistakes and omissions could lead to problems when they try to fly.
Testing requirements for fully-vaccinated travellers to popular destinations
- Abu Dhabi negative PCR test taken within 48 hours prior to travel, plus a PCR test on arrival
- Barbados negative PCR test taken within three days prior to travel
- Brazil negative PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to travel, or negative lateral flow test within 24 hours of travel
- Canary Islands no restrictions
- Cape Verde no restrictions
- Costa Rica no restrictions
- Cuba negative PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to travel, followed by a PCR test on arrival
- Dubai negative PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to travel
- Egypt no restrictions
- Goa regular scheduled flights are currently suspended
- Indonesia no restrictions
- Maldives negative PCR test taken within 96 hours prior to arrival
- Mexico no restrictions
- Morocco no restrictions
- St Lucia negative PCR test taken five days or less before travel
- Seychelles negative PCR test taken 72 hours or less before travel
- South Africa negative PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to travel
- Thailand negative PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to travel
- Trinidad & Tobago negative PCR test taken within 72 hours prior to travel.
Source: Cignpost ExpressTest
Christian Corney of Cignpost ExpressTest, which runs testing sites at airports and city centre locations in the UK, says winter sun travellers need to book the right tests at the right time: “With COVID testing requirements being lifted for travellers coming into the UK, it’s easy to think that the same process is happening across the world.
“But many countries, especially long-haul destinations, have their own testing requirements, and holidaymakers need to plan carefully to make sure they have booked the correct tests and can get results back before they fly. Without proof of the right negative test taken at the right time, travellers will not be allowed to board the plane.”
Mr Corney cites the example of double-jabbed passengers heading to the Maldives needing to take a negative PCR within 96 hours of embarking on their outbound flight, but travellers to Thailand, South Africa and the Seychelles having to complete the same test within 72 hours prior to departure.
Similarly, entry requirements vary within Latin America. Mexico and Costa Rica do not ask for any test results, but Brazil requires a negative PCR taken within 72 hours of arrival, or a lateral flow test taken no more than 24 hours before travel.
In the Caribbean, St Lucia requires arrivals to have a negative PCR test taken within five days of their outbound flight, while Barbados sets the time limit at three days.
And fully-vaccinated travellers heading to Dubai must produce a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours of their flight, but travellers choosing Abu Dhabi must complete their test up to 48 hours before their departure.
Red List Falls To Seven, Vax Recognition Extended
The UK government’s Covid-19 red list has been cut to seven destinations from today (Monday 11 October). All other countries and territories will fall into the ‘rest of the world’ classification.
The seven locations remaining on the red list are:
- Dominican Republic.
Travellers returning to England from red list countries are required to spend 10 days/11 nights in a government-sanctioned quarantine hotel. For details of the costs and associated testing requirements, see story below.
The UK government rules apply to England. However, the new red list has also been adopted for use by the devolved authorities in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Announcing the change, Grant Shapps MP, transport secretary, added: “I’m making changes so travellers visiting England have fewer entry requirements, by recognising those with fully-vax status from 37 new countries and territories including India, Turkey and Ghana, treating them the same as UK fully-vax passengers.”
You can find a full list of countries with approved vaccines and proof of vaccination here.
Last week, the Foreign & Commonwealth Development Office announced that it has lifted its advice against all but essential travel for 32 countries and territories.
The FCDO says it will no longer advise against travel to non-red list countries on COVID-19 grounds, except in exceptional circumstances such as if the local healthcare system is overwhelmed.
This is being viewed as another positive step because most travel insurance policies are invalid in countries where FCDO advice against travel is in place. It will also eliminate any conflicts between the red list and the FCDO advice list. For example, when the Maldives was removed from the red list last month, it temporarily remained on the FCDO list.
New UK Travel Regime Takes Effect
From 4am today (Monday 4 October 2021), the UK’s new travel system comes into force, with countries and territories categorised as either ‘red’ or ‘rest of the world’.
The previous traffic light system of red, amber and green as been removed. At present there are over 50 countries on the UK government red list, but this number is expected to fall sharply later this week when a revised list is published.
There has been speculation in the media that the number could fall below 10 when an announcement is made, possibly on Thursday.
Travel restrictions and requirements on those entering the UK from non red list countries will now largely be determined by the individual’s vaccination status.
For travellers to England, the new regime enables eligible fully vaccinated passengers (those with NHS vaccines and vaccines from countries with approved vaccination programmes) and eligible under-18s to return from non red list countries without needing to complete a pre-departure test (PDT) or a Day 8 test, or to enter a 10-day self-isolation period.
From later in October, eligible fully vaccinated passengers with an approved vaccine and recognised certificate from a country not on the red list will also be able to replace their Day 2 test with a cheaper lateral flow test, reducing the cost of tests on arrival into England.
The government says it wants to have this in place for when people return from school half-term breaks.
Anyone testing positive will need to isolate and take a confirmatory PCR test, at no additional cost, which would be genomically sequenced to help identify new variants.
Travellers returning from a non red list country who are not fully vaccinated must take a pre-departure Covid-19 test in the three days before travelling to England.
They must also self isolate for 10 days (with the option to Test to Release on Day 5) and take Covid-19 tests on Day 2 and Day 8.
Red list country requirements
As far as red list countries are concerned, only UK or Irish nationals, or those with residency rights in the UK, will be able to enter the UK. They will be required, regardless of vaccination status, to:
- take a pre-departure Covid-19 test – to be taken in the three days before travel
- after arrival, quarantine in a managed hotel and take the required two Covid-19 tests on Day 2 and Day 8.
All arrivals from any overseas destination will still need to fill in a passenger locator form ahead of travel to the UK.
You can find any variations to the above rules issued by the UK government here, for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Grant Shapps MP, transport secretary, said the UK is expanding its recognised vaccination policy to a further 18 countries, including the United Arab Emirates, Japan and Canada. The recognised vaccines are Pfizer BioNTech, Oxford AstraZeneca (including Covidshield), Moderna and Janssen (J&J).
This brings the total number of countries in scope of the policy to over 50. The government says more countries and territories will be added in the coming weeks.
Fully vaccinated residents in other countries not yet part of the inbound policy, as well as those partially vaccinated, will still have to take a pre-departure test, PCR tests for day 2 and day 8 after arrival, and self-isolate for 10 days, with the option to test to release after 5 days.
22 September: Eight Countries Come Off Red List Of High-Risk Nations
Today (Weds 22 September) sees eight countries removed from the UK’s red list of destinations deemed high risk because of their Covid-19 status. These countries will now be on the amber list.
The move, announced last Friday by Grant Shapps MP, transport secretary, means travellers returning to England from Turkey, Pakistan, the Maldives, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya will no longer need to stay in a managed quarantine hotel for 10 days (11 nights).
The change took effect this morning at 4am.
Previously, returning travellers from these countries faced huge bills for a hotel package, which includes two Covid-19 tests on Day 2 and Day 8. The cost for an adult is £2,285 with additional adult (or child over 11) paying £1,430 and children aged 5 – 11 costing £325.
This was an effective deterrent for travel to popular holiday destinations such as Egypt and Turkey, and the change may result in an increase in trips this autumn, particular during half-term in October.
Travellers returning from amber list countries do not need to self-isolate at home if they have been fully vaccinated, although they must take a Covid test prior to departure and on day two of their return.
In addition to self-isolating for 10 days non-vaccinated travellers returning from an amber list country must take the above tests and a test on Day 8 of their return.
Anyone booking a foreign holiday should arrange their travel insurance as soon as possible to benefit from the cancellation element of their policy.
There are still over 50 countries on the UK government red list, and the requirement for quarantine in a managed facility remains in force for those returning to the UK from these destinations.
The Foreign & Commonwealth Development Office (FCDO) maintains a separate list of countries where it advises against travel to particular destinations. As of 22 September, it is still advising against travel to the Maldives. This is significant because travelling against FCDO advice will usually invalidate travel insurance – even if the country concerned is not on the Department of Transport’s red list.
We await any further clarification on this apparent contradiction in the positions of the two departments.
Mr Shapps has also announced an overhaul of the government’s traffic light system, due to take effect on 4 October. See story below.
Additionally, he has tweeted today that the UK will be accepting UAE vaccination certificates from 4 October following updates to its vaccination app. He said: “As a major transport hub which is home to many British expats, this is great news for reopening international travel, boosting business & reuniting families.”
20 September 2011: Families Give Thanks As US Reopens For International Travel In November
The United States will welcome UK and other foreign nationals who fly into the country from ‘early November’ – provided they have been fully vaccinated.
Restrictions will remain across the country’s land borders with Mexico and Canada.
The US has restricted entry to most foreign travellers since early 2020, but the latest move opens the prospect of family reunions in time for Thanksgiving on 25 November, as well as the holiday season in December.
Speaking in the House of Commons earlier today, Grants Shapps MP, transport secretary, said: “I can announce to the House today that vaccinated Brits will be allowed into the US from early November, reciprocating the policy we introduced this summer”
This included a pilot scheme whereby passengers who were fully vaccinated in the UK, in Europe and the US were allowed to travel to the UK from amber list countries (including the US) without the need to self-isolate or take a day 8 test after entry to the UK.
Mr Shapps added: “This is a testament to the hard work and progress made by the Expert Working Group, set up after the G7 summit, to restart transatlantic travel, the flagship route of international aviation.”
Anyone planning a trip to the US can get prices for travel insurance here.
The US Centers for Disease Control is expected to confirm shortly which vaccines will be recognised, as well as the precise date on which foreign visitors who have been satisfactorily vaccinated will be able to travel to the US. More details to follow when we have them.
20 September 2021: Govt Travel Rules Overhaul Sees Traffic Light System End On 4 October
In a series of tweets on Friday, Grant Shapps MP, transport secretary, announced changes to the rules governing international travel into the England for British citizens. These will see an end to pre-departure tests for fully-vaccinated travellers.
Those arriving in other UK nations will need to follow the rules issued by the respective devolved authorities (details will follow when we have them).
From 4 October, the government will maintain a red list of high-risk countries and move the rest of the world onto a single footing.
Mr Shapps tweeted: “From Monday 4 October, if you’re fully vaccinated, you won’t need a pre-departure test before arrival into England from a non-red country and, from later in October, you will be able to replace the PCR test taken on Day 2 of your return with a cheaper lateral flow test.”
PCR tests can cost upwards of £70, while lateral flow tests cost around £30 per person – a still-significant amount, especially for families.
The government wants to have this system in place in time for holidaymakers returning after the upcoming school half-term break.
All passengers will still need to fill in a passenger locator form ahead of travel. Visit here to see the current requirements for vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers from green, amber and red countries.
Unvaccinated passengers returning from non-red countries from 4 October will still need to take pre-departure tests, Day 2 and Day 8 PCR tests during a 10-day period of self-isolation. Test to release on Day 5 remains an option to reduce the self-isolation period.
Mr Shapps also announced changes to the current red list, removing eight countries (Turkey, Pakistan, the Maldives, Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya). The changes will take effect on Wednesday (22 September) at 4am.
A greater number of countries had been expected by some to come off the red list, but the removal from it of popular holiday destinations such as Turkey, the Maldives and Egypt will be welcomed ahead of school half-term.
Anyone with plans to travel in the coming weeks should make sure they have appropriate travel insurance for their chosen destination.
Signalling the dismantling of the often-controversial traffic light system of grading countries according to their perceived Covid risk, Mr Shapps tweeted: “We’ll also be introducing a new simplified system for international travel from Monday 4 October, replacing the current approach with a single red list and simplified measures for the rest of the world – striking the right balance to manage the public health risk as No.1 priority.”
From 4 October, the government is also extending the list of countries whose vaccination programmes will be seen as being on a par with that of the UK, meaning vaccinated travellers will not need a pre-departure test or a Day 8 test once in England, and they will not be required to self-isolate.
The 17 countries and territories include Japan and Singapore. See here for the full list of countries.
Wales to introduce vaccine passports in October
People in Wales will have to prove they’re either double vaccinated or don’t have Covid-19 in order to visit nightclubs and events from next month.
Mark Drakeford, Wales’ First Minister, made the announcement today, 17 September, citing rising Covid-19 case numbers over the summer. The new measures come into force from 1 October 1.
From that point, admission to the following events will require either a negative lateral flow test result from a test taken 48 hours prior to the event, or an NHS Covid Pass to prove you’ve had two doses of the vaccine:
- Indoor standing events for more than 500 people
- Outdoor standing events for more than 4,000 people
- Any event with more than 10,000 people
Double-vaccinated people can get an NHS Covid Pass via its dedicated app, or by visiting the Covid status website.
Govt to announce travel rules changes today
The government will set out changes to the coronavirus travel regime later today, it has been confirmed.
Grants Shapps MP, transport secretary, has tweeted: “I’ll set out measures to simplify international travel later today in order to reduce costs, take advantage of higher levels of vaccination, and keep us all safe.”
There is speculation that the amber level of the traffic light traffic regime might be removed, with countries designated either green or red. This may mean we see an end to the need for fully vaccinated travellers to take Covid-19 tests before departure for the UK and after arrival from a wider range of countries.
We’ll update with more information when we get it.
UPDATE 10 SEPTEMBER 2021 – Speculation mounts over future of traffic light scheme
According to media reports, the government may announce structural changes to its travel traffic light system as early as the middle of next week.
The system, which ranks countries as green, amber or red based on their incidence of Covid-19, has always been scheduled for review by 1 October. Assessing its continued merits ahead of this date would hopefully provide clarity about international travel opportunities, particularly testing and quarantine requirements.
Under the current regime, travellers returning to the UK from green list countries, and fully vaccinated travellers returning from amber list countries, are not required to enter quarantine, although they are required to take Covid-19 tests before setting off for the UK and on day two of their return. If a test returns a positive result, self-isolation is required.
Travel industry leaders say the cost of tests is deterring many people from booking holidays abroad. They hope any overhaul of the traffic light system would remove the need for testing if the destination country had a vaccination record on a par with that of the UK.
According to the BBC, the red list of countries where the government advises against travel in all but the most extreme circumstances, will be retained.
The government has commented to the effect that the system will be reviewed by 1 October, as planned.
UPDATE 26 AUGUST 2021 – Canada Among Seven Countries To Join Green List, Thailand to Red
At 4am on Monday 30 August 2021, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Switzerland and the Azores were added to the UK government’s green traffic-light travel list.
This means travellers returning to the UK from these locations will not need to quarantine, regardless of their vaccination status, unless they return a positive coronavirus test result on day 2 of their return. They will also need to take a test before their return flight and complete a passenger locater form.
If they test positive while still abroad, the government says they should not travel and should instead follow local protocols.
As of the same time and date, Thailand and Montenegro were added to the official red list. Passengers arriving in the UK from red list destinations need to isolate for 10 days in a managed quarantine facility and follow the necessary testing requirements.
The costs of staying in a quarantine ‘hotel’ can be found below, along with details of other requirements for traveller from various destinations.
UPDATE 8 AUGUST 2021 – Quarantine Rules Eased For France, European Countries Move to Green List
- Changes open up France for summer holidays
- Cost of quarantine hotels hiked from 12 August
France has moved from amber plus to amber status on the government’s traffic light list for international travel, following changes that came into force at 4am. This means travellers who have received both doses of the NHS Covid vaccine returning to England, Scotland and Northern Ireland from France will no longer need to self-isolate for 10 days.
The authorities in Wales have yet to announce their decision on the matter.
Related: Travel Insurance For Amber Countries: What You Need To Know
Austria, Germany, Slovenia, Slovakia, Latvia, Romania and Norway have also moved from amber to the green list.
India, Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have moved from the red to the amber list, removing the need for double NHS-jabbed travellers to enter a government quarantine hotel for 10 days. Georgia, Mexico, La Reunion and Mayotte have been added to the red list.
Travellers from the UK to all destinations across the traffic light list are being urged to check the conditions and restrictions that may apply to those entering the country they are planning to visit.
The government is advising travellers returning from Spain, which is on the amber list, to use a PCR test as their pre-departure test wherever possible. At the moment, the requirement allows returning travellers to take a lateral flow test, which is less expensive and returns faster results.
Hotel quarantine costs to increase
The government has also announced steep increases to the cost of staying in a quarantine hotel from 12 August onwards. This will affect those returning from red list countries.
UPDATE 28 July 2021 – EU & US Double-Jabbed Travellers Get Green Light To Visit England
- Government eases restrictions to remove self-isolation requirement
- UK residents still face restrictions on entering US
- Travellers to certain European countries from UK may need to quarantine on arrival
The government has announced that travellers arriving in England from amber countries who have been fully vaccinated in the USA and Europe (EU Member States except France*, European Free Trade Association countries** and the European microstate countries of Andorra, Monaco and Vatican City) will not have to quarantine when entering England.
* Travellers who have been in France in the 10 days before arrival in England must still quarantine for 10 days after they arrive and take a COVID-19 test on or before day 2 and on or after day 8, even if you are fully vaccinated.
** Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland
The change will take effect from 4am on Monday 2 August.
Travellers will still be required to take PCR Covid tests before setting off and on the second day after they arrive – the requirement to take a test on day 8 has been removed.
Those vaccinated in the US will also need to provide proof of US residency. Passengers from all countries travelling to the UK will be denied entry unless they have completed a passenger locator form.
We are awaiting announcements from the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland regarding their rules for inbound travellers from the EU and US.
Earlier this month, the US State Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention both advised against travel to the UK and said that those who insisted on travelling should only do so if double-vaccinated. The stated reason for this guidance was the rising number of cases in the UK.
With the number of cases in the UK now falling, it remains unclear whether the advice to US travellers will change.
At the moment, the US border is closed to travellers from the UK except for US citizens. Again, there is no indication that this is going to change in the immediate future, although the two governments are thought to be mulling the introduction of a travel corridor across the Atlantic.
Cruise controls lifted
The government has also confirmed that international cruise sailings are to restart from England from 2 August 2021, in line with Public Health England guidance. International cruise travel advice will be amended to encourage travellers to understand the risks associated with cruise travel and take personal responsibility for their own safety abroad.
The move follows the close monitoring of epidemiological evidence, gained through the restart of the domestic cruise industry earlier this year.
Some operators are insisting that passengers will only be able to take a cruise if they have received both doses of the NHS Covid-19 vaccination. For example, Saga says: “Our guidance is that all guests should be fully inoculated, which means you must have received both doses and waited for full immunity to take effect. Therefore, we will require all of our guests to have received both doses of the vaccine no later than 14 days prior to departure.”
Find out more about specialist cruise travel insurance.