Rory Boland, Editor of Which? Travel, said:
“Which? has heard from an increasing number of passengers who have been asked to pay extortionate flight change fees or left stranded altogether by their airline in countries placed under lockdown or where travel restrictions are being introduced.
“Airlines must stop cashing in on the misfortune of their customers and prioritise getting them home safely – going above and beyond their legal obligations where necessary.
“The government must also up its game and provide British citizens fearful of being stranded abroad with useful advice. Where scheduled services have been withdrawn, it should explore all options to get these people on flights home.”
CASE STUDY A: A traveller in Cusco, Peru (the popular gateway to Machu Picchu) who was due to fly home to the UK yesterday was bumped from her flight by the airline. The airline subsequently informed her it would not be operating any further flights, and wouldn’t provide any further assistance. When she contacted the FCO and asked for advice she was told it couldn’t help, and she should contact her airline again or try the embassy. She did try the embassy. It’s closed for fifteen days.
CASE STUDY B: A traveller in South Africa was told she would need to pay nearly £2000 to bring forward the return date of her ticket and that of her son. The airline also refused to offer any flexibility on downgrading classes to accommodate an earlier return. She is concerned that flights will no longer be departing by the time she is due to travel this weekend, and the South African government has issued confusing advice on its travel restrictions. She has contacted the UK embassy several times for advice and received no response.
Right of reply:
An FCO spokesperson said:
“We recognise that any British people currently overseas may be nervous about the impact of coronavirus on their travel and their health
“We are in close contact with travel providers and our international partners to provide support to those British people affected by ongoing measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
Background from FCO
- FCO teams around the world are working urgently to ensure that governments have sensible plans to enable the return of British and other travellers, and, crucially, to keep borders open for a sufficient period of time to enable returns to take place on commercial flights, wherever possible.
- The Government is also working with airlines to ensure as many people as possible can get commercial flights home and welcomes the efforts they are making.
- You should read and follow the FCO travel advice and the advice of the local authorities where you are. You should contact your airline, tour operator and travel insurer to find out what support they can offer. The FCO provides information on what to do and who to contact if you require financial assistance abroad.
- We also have online guidance for British people travelling and living overseas following the outbreak of coronavirus.