COVID-19 Update: A National Effort to Fly Britons Home
As a result of COVID-19, this pandemic has led to detrimental effects on global travel. Multitudinous countries worldwide have gone to unprecedented lengths, such as closing their borders and imposing travel restrictions at late notice or without warning. This has consequently caused British tourists to be stranded abroad without a possible and qualified route home.
On 30th March 2020, The Foreign and Commonwealth Office publicly declared the formation of a new partnership between the UK government and selected airlines. The foundation of this partnership is the absolute aim to fly stranded British travellers back to the UK as a result of the pandemic. It is strongly supported by £75 million of government funding in bid to bring Britons home safely.
On the same day, the UK government and specified airlines being Virgin, Easyjet, Jet2 and Titan Airways mutually signed a memorandum of understanding to confirm this partnership arrangement. It is anticipated that other airlines will join and the national airline, British Airways, has also provided clarity that it will work with the arrangement as part of the national interest to get British citizens home.
The government’s approach behind this arrangement:
i) Airlines are responsible for transporting passengers with pre-booked tickets to the UK either via proffering alternatives where specified routes are no longer available or allowing passengers to change their tickets where allowed. Airlines must also provide passengers with the latest travel information and advice as the current situation changes.
ii) Where commercial routes cease to exist, the government will pledge up to £75 million financial aid to permit charter flights to fly to ‘priority countries’ to bring back UK residents.
In this announcement, Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, pronounced further strategies:
Where commercial flights are not possible, we will build on the earlier charter flights we organised back from China, Japan, Cuba, Ghana and Peru. The arrangements agreed today will provide a clearer basis to organise special charter flights where Britons find themselves stranded. Our priority will always be the most vulnerable.
Special charter flights for countries which do not have any commercial passages will be made a point of according to the number of abandoned British travellers and their vulnerability, inclusive of an assessment and review of the local health provisions. In some instances, access for flights to land and the ability to move around in the country to gather for return flights will also be conclusive factors towards prioritizing special charter flights.
At present, charter flights are operating to Ghana and Tunisia. It is anticipated that the government will operate flights to more countries as soon as this week, such as India and South Africa where there are large numbers of deserted civilians. The government is continuously negotiating with other countries to secure consent for return flights where airspace has been closed off.
The government’s pledge of up to £75 million to pay airlines are for the purposes of operating these special charter flights and guarantee that tickets remain affordable. Once these flights have been secured, they will be highlighted in the government’s travel advice and by the British embassy or High Commission in that country. Travellers who would like to book a seat on the flight can do so via a renowned travel management company and will pay the relevant fee.
If you are a British citizen stranded overseas and would like to return to the UK:
- Check if there are still commercial routes available by vising the websites of airlines, FCO travel pages for the country you are in and the local British embassy social media.
- Where there are no commercial routes available, please visit travel advice pages and sign up to alerts for your location and keep updated with the British embassy social media and email updates. When special flights become available, they will be promoted by the embassy and British nationals on Travel Advice Pages and Embassy social media and also be emailed if you register for updates. You will be asked to register your interest through booking agents CTM.
- If you are in desperate need, the consular teams will work with you to consider options. At a last resort, the Foreign Office will consider offering an emergency loan.
- If you are in an emergency scenario, you can contact the FCO’s call centre. It has tripled its efficiency to make certain that callers worldwide can get assistance.
The Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps reports his sympathies and extends his support:
This is a very difficult time for British citizens travelling overseas, or those with families and loved ones abroad, which is why we are doing everything we can to ensure airlines can operate and bring people back home safely.
In the meantime, countries are being urged to keep transit hubs, airports and airspace open and unrestricted to corroborate with the government’s aim of returning British travellers home. Already, assistance has been provided to thousands of British tourists from Morocco, Cyprus and Spain.
For more information, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-government-partnership-with-airlines-to-fly-back-more-tourists-stranded-abroad
Please also see coronavirus (COVID-19 travel advice) for the latest information and travel on coronavirus: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus
Should you require further information regarding the above, please get in touch with the Global Mobility professional you deal with at Hudson McKenzie via email at email@example.com or by telephone +44(0) 20 3318 5794