New government partnership with airlines to send more stranded tourists abroad

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  • government-airline partnership to bring stranded UK travelers home
  • government chartered flights from priority countries to the UK over the weekend and more this week
  • up to £ 75million in government funding pledged to bring UK travelers home

More tourists stranded abroad due to the coronavirus will be able to return to the UK following a deal between the government and the airline industry.

The global travel situation caused by the coronavirus has led many people to find themselves stranded abroad. This is an unprecedented challenge with many countries closing their borders and imposing travel restrictions with little warning. This has left many British travelers struggling to return home.

Virgin, Easyjet, Jet2 and Titan Airways today signed a memorandum of understanding negotiated by the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Secretary of Transport. British Airways has also made it clear that it will work with us in the national interest to get people home, and that other airlines should join us. Secretaries of State have issued a joint letter to airlines. The government is focused on getting the British back home through a two-pronged approach:

  • airlines recognizing their responsibility to carry their passengers with pre-booked tickets home, offering them alternatives where itineraries are canceled, allowing them to change tickets, when permitted – including between carriers – and providing them with the latest information and advice as the situation changes
  • where trade routes do not exist, the government will provide up to £ 75million in financial support to enable special charter flights – operated by the above airlines and others – to fly to priority countries for bring back UK residents

Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said:

It is a worrying time for many UK citizens traveling abroad. We’ve worked with airlines and governments in the past to get hundreds of thousands of people home on commercial flights, and we’ll keep as many of those options open as possible.

Where commercial flights are not possible, we will build on previous charter flights we have arranged from China, Japan, Cuba, Ghana and Peru. The arrangements agreed today will provide a clearer basis for organizing special charter flights where the British find themselves stranded. Our priority will always be the most vulnerable.

Special charter flights to countries without trade routes will be prioritized based on the number of stranded UK travelers and their vulnerability, including an assessment of the local healthcare supply. In some locations, access for flights to land and the ability to travel within the country to assemble for return flights will also be deciding factors.

Charter flights are already operational to Ghana and Tunisia. We will be adding more countries this week with the aim of bringing people back from countries like India and South Africa where large numbers of British travelers are stranded and trade routes are completely suspended. We are negotiating intensively with countries around the world to obtain clearances for return flights to where the airspace has been closed.

The government has pledged up to £ 75million to pay airlines for additional charter flights to ensure tickets are affordable. Once the special flights are organized, they will be promoted through the government travel tips and by the British Embassy or High Commission in the country. UK travelers wishing to secure a seat on the flight will book and pay directly through a dedicated travel management company.

UK tourists stranded abroad who wish to return to the UK should first check if there are any trade routes available by visiting the airlines’ websites, FCO Travel Advice Pages for the country in which they are located and local British Embassy Social Media.

If there are no trading options, they should visit the travel advice pages and sign up for alerts for their location and follow embassy social media and email updates. When special return flights become available they will be announced by the Embassy and UK nationals on the Embassy’s travel advice and social media pages and those who have signed up for updates will be contacted by e -mail. UK nationals will be invited to register their interest with our CTM booking agents.

Where people are in need, our consular teams will work with them to explore their options. As a last resort, the Foreign Office will propose a emergency loan.

We have also tripled the capacity of the FCO call center to ensure that people in emergencies around the world can get help.

Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps said:

It is a very difficult time for UK citizens traveling abroad or for those with families and loved ones abroad which is why we are doing everything we can to ensure that airlines can operate and get people home safely.

Alastair Willson, CEO of Titan Airways, said:

As a proud UK company, we stand ready to work with the government to do whatever we can to bring stranded UK travelers home.

The government continues to urge countries around the world to keep transit hubs, airports and airspace open to ensure travelers can re-enter the UK. The Foreign Minister spoke to more than 20 of his counterparts to support this effort and we have helped hundreds of thousands of British tourists return from all over the world, including 8,500 from Morocco, around 5,000 from Cyprus and around 150,000 from Spain.

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