Exodus! Thousands arrive at Heathrow in last-ditch bid to flee the UK before Thursday as travel agents report phones ringing ‘off the hook’ from customers desperate to beat lockdown
- Thousands of Brits in race to border before new lockdown starts on Thursday
- Experts say travellers are seeking out the low-risk countries to spend lockdown
- Airlines confirm they are operating as normal until Wednesday evening and with no requirement to come back early, many in bid to go on holiday before deadline
England’s airports have seen waves of holidaymakers rush to leave the country before the latest lockdown rules come into effect on Thursday.
The new rules, which will see both international travel and travel inside the UK banned for a month, have sparked a stampede of people rushing to the departure gates before they are slammed shut to all but a handful of travellers.
As part of the lockdown plans, travellers who are already on holiday, or leave before Thursday, are not required to return from their trips early, it has been announced.
Queues of people have been seen at UK airports, including Heathrow (pictured) as travellers seek to get out of the country before the latest lockdown restrictions come into force this week
What are quarantine rules in the Caribbean?
Many Brits have chosen the Caribbean as their destination for the winter getaway ahead of the country’s latest lockdown on Thursday.
Caribbean countries have had relatively low numbers of Covid cases. Barbados has had 237 while St Lucia has only had 84.
This means you are not required to quarantine if returning to the UK.
However, most consider the UK as a high-risk country and therefore you may be subject to quarantine restrictions on your arrival abroad.
Travel restrictions differ from country to country so it is important to check before you book.
All Caribbean countries require you to produce a negative Covid test before boarding and some may require you to undergo further health screenings on arrival.
In Antigua, you are generally free to travel as you please once you have produced a negative test and passed the health screening.
In Barbados, you will also be subject to a further four-to-five day quarantine at a ‘Covid approved facility’ or a government facility until you pass a second test.
Meanwhile, in St Lucia, you must stay at a Covid-approved accommodation for the full 14 days.
You can find the latest requirements on the UK Gov website.
In a bid to take advantage of this, travellers were seen queuing at Heathrow today as they raced to leave the country before the lockdown rules come into effect.
Industry expert Paul Charles, who has more than 25 years in the travel, said the country’s ‘pent-up demand to travel’ had seen a number of bookings to countries including in the Caribbean.
Mr Charles, who runs the PC Agency, said: ‘There’s enormous pent-up demand to travel and a lot of bookings have actually been taken in the last 24 hours from people searching for somewhere to go before Wednesday evening.
‘The Caribbean is one good example. It’s pretty open, you can go to Barbados, Antigua, St Lucia then come back to the UK and not have to quarantine and a lot of people may want to do that to leave the country – you can’t really blame them.
‘There are places to go but they’re few and far between.’
Several travel agents have said they have been inundated with booking requests from Brits desperate to get away before lockdown begins on Thursday.
Colum McLornan, MD of single travel specialist Friendship Travel, told The Telegraph: ‘The phones at Friendship Travel are ringing off the hook this morning with single travellers desperate to fly to the sun before Thursday.
‘Unlike before, airlines don’t seem to be rushing to repatriate travellers, so if you start a holiday before Thursday then it looks as if you can complete it as planned.’
Most airlines have confirmed they will continue operating as normal until Wednesday evening, but will contact customers whose pre-booked trips may be affected from Thursday.
TUI, the world’s largest travel and tourism company, has today revealed its customers will be offered refund for holidays dashed by the new lockdown laws, while easyJet chiefs called for support for the travel industry.
In a statement, a spokesperson for TUI said: ‘Following the recent announcement about additional restrictions in England from 00:01 on Thursday 5 November all TUI holidays between Sunday, November 1 and Wednesday, November 4 are currently due to operate as planned.
Many Brits are seeking out low-risk Covid areas with limited quarantine restrictions as their destination of choice for a winter getaway ahead of the new national lockdown on Thursday
‘Customers due to travel before Thursday are able to amend their holiday to a later date for free.
‘We understand that holidays abroad (for those living in England) are unable to take place from 00:01 on Thursday, November 5.
‘As soon as we have more information we will be updating customers as soon as we can.
‘If holidays are unable to take place, customers will be notified and offered the option to amend with an incentive, receive an ATOL-protected refund credit note with a re-booking incentive, or cancel and receive a full cash refund within 14 days.
‘Customers currently on holiday can continue to enjoy their holiday as planned.’
Jet2 also said it was planning to continue as normal between now and the lockdown deadline.
Most airlines have confirmed they are operating as normal until Wednesday evening and, as people are not required to head home early from a holiday that started before lockdown, many Brits are seeking to take advantage and head on holiday before lockdown begins on Thursday
A spokesperson said: ‘We are planning to operate as normal between now and Wednesday, November 4, so customers wanting to get away from the cold and gloom can still book and travel as normal.
‘For customers due to depart up to and including Wednesday, November 4, and who do not wish to travel, they can amend their booking to a later date with no admin fee.
‘If flights or holidays are affected by any changes, we will contact customers to advise them of their options. Customers in resort should continue to enjoy their holidays as planned.
‘Our contact centre is receiving a high volume of enquiries at the moment, so we remind customers that they do not need to contact us. We will be in touch with any updates.
‘We would like to thank our customers for their understanding and patience.’
A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson added: ‘We continue to monitor the Covid-19 situation very carefully, including the latest guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), as well as any new entry or quarantine restrictions implemented by the countries we fly to.
‘We’re aware of the latest guidance issued by UK government, that from 5th November, UK nationals should avoid all non-essential travel.
‘We are currently evaluating what this means for our customers and flying programme.
‘At present, our schedule remains as published on our website, however our teams will be in contact with any customers whose travel may be affected, to discuss their options.’
Emma Coulthurst, of comparison site Travelsupermarket, said since the Government announced travel to winter sun hotspots such as the Canary Islands and the Maldives would be permitted from October 22, tens of thousands of people were likely to have booked.
She told the Telegraph: ‘The return of the Canaries was heralded as a glimmer of light for the industry and for holidaymakers. Now that is torn to pieces.’
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