UK travel chaos after Tier 4 rules kick in and swathes of Europe ban UK flights

Dec 21, 2020

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

This is a breaking story: updates to follow.

Travel to and from the U.K. is screeching to a halt amidst reports of a new strain of coronavirus.

Several European nations, including Austria and Italy, banned flights from Sunday, 20 December, according to the Associated Press. Belgium banned flights for at least 24 hours beginning at midnight and is stopping its train service to Britain. And the Netherlands has halted flights from the U.K. for the rest of the year, if not longer. Germany is “working on” new restrictions as well, and the Czech Republic responded by enforcing stricter quarantine regulations on travellers from the U.K.

Follow The Points Guy on Facebook and Twitter, and to ensure you never miss anything, subscribe to our daily newsletter.

Individual airlines are reviewing flight schedules and cancelling crew layovers, Bloomberg reported last night

Other nations including the Irish Republic, Turkey, Canada, Switzerland, Portugal, Denmark, Finland, Romania, Sweden and Croatia are also suspending U.K. flights.

Meanwhile, John Keefe, Eurotunnel’s spokesman, has said that all travel from the U.K. to France had been suspended but the Eurotunnel was still open for travel and goods coming in the other direction. French President Emmanuel Macron has since said ports will re-open but insists lorry drivers arriving from the U.K. must register a negative Covid test upon arrival.

Switzerland has also temporarily halted U.K. flights while Bulgaria has suspended flights to and from the U.K. from midnight on Sunday. Unlike the short-term measures in many other nations, its ban lasts until 31 January.

The bans and regulations come on the heels of new Tier 4 restrictions in London and much of the south-east that prohibits travel except for essential reasons. People in areas now considered Tier 4 are expected to stay home at this time, the Independent reported. Work, school, medical treatment and “compassionate reasons” are considered essential, but leisure travel within your area, abroad or within the U.K. is not acceptable.

A public-safety notice that reads, “COVID-19 Rates High, SOS-Tier 4, Stay Safe” in Southend-on-Sea, Essex. (Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images)

In response, Tui has cancelled all flights between 20 December and 30 December departing from London Luton Airport (LTN). For many, the flurry of cancellations effectively spells the end of travel for the year.

Hotels, holiday rental properties, inns, pubs, restaurants cafes and bars in Tier 3 and 4 areas are closed though takeaways, drive-thru and delivery services can continue.

Empty high street in Essex as the area enters Tier 4. (Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images)

Travellers affected by the new spate of cancellations and mandates may not be able to get their money back. According to early reports by Bloomberg, both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic say travellers who cancel their trips may not be eligible for refunds. Travellers should wait until the last possible to minute to see if the airline cancels first, which would trigger a refund. Otherwise, travellers may be forced to rebook or accept a voucher. EasyJet and Tui, on the other hand, are permitting travellers to request refunds.

Related: You can now cancel British Airways bookings for free even if made before the pandemic

The new strain of the coronavirus is thought to be even more contagious, though Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there was “no evidence” that it is more severe or lethal.

“What we understand is that it does have increased transmissibility, in terms of its ability to spread,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the technical lead on COVID-19 at the World Health Organization (WHO) told the BBC on Sunday.

Despite efforts from the European Union to isolate the new strain, which the AP said was first identified in southeastern England as early as September, has already been recorded in Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia.

Feature photo of travellers waiting for the last train to Paris from St. Pancras station on Sunday 20 December 2020. Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.