Government to charter flights to bring tens of thousands of stranded British tourists home

The Government has teamed up with leading airlines to bring home “tens of thousands” of British travellers stranded abroad.

Monday, 30th March 2020, 5:47 pm
Updated Monday, 30th March 2020, 5:48 pm

Speaking at the daily Downing Street briefing Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said the Government was working with British Airways, Virgin, easyJet, Jet2 and Titan to charter flights to bring Brits home.

He said: “I can today announce a new arrangement between the Government and airlines to fly home tens of thousands of stranded British travellers, where commercial flights are no longer possible.

“Partner airlines include British Airways, Virgin, easyJet, Jet2 and Titan and this list can be expanded.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. Photo: PA
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab. Photo: PA

“Under the arrangements that we are putting in place we will target flights from a range of priority countries, starting this week.”

Mr Raab said airlines would be responsible for getting passengers home where commercial routes remain an option.

“That means offering alternative flights at little to no cost where routes have been cancelled, and it means allowing passengers to change tickets – including between carriers.

“So for those still in those countries where commercial options are still available: don’t wait. Don’t run the risk of getting stranded. The airlines are standing by to help you – please book your tickets as soon as possible.”

But where that was not possible a £75m package has been launched, with countries prioritised according to the number of stranded British travellers and their vulnerability, including an assessment of the local health provision. In some places, access for flights to land and the ability to move around within the country to assemble for return flights will also be decisive factors.

Mr Raab also acknowledged travellers had struggled to get help from the Foreign Office helplines.

“I know it has been difficult to get through for some travellers,” he said.

“To give you an indication of the sheer volume, on average we normally receive 1,000 calls a day to that call centre.

“Last Tuesday, we had nearly 15,000, the highest on record.

“So we boosted our resources, we have redeployed people to our call centre, we’ve tripled our capacity.

“Yesterday, the call centre answered 99 per cent of calls and helped thousands of British travellers get the answers they need.”

The Foreign Office said charter flights to bring Britons home had already been arranged for Ghana and Tunisia, while India and South Africa would also be looked at soon.

But travellers will still need to cover the cost of the flights, with the £75m going to the airlines to help keep ticket prices reasonable.

Once special flights have been arranged, these will be promoted through the Government’s travel advice and by the British Embassy or High Commission in any given country. British travellers who want a seat on the flight will book and pay directly through a dedicated travel management company.

Where people are in real need, consular teams will work with them to consider their options. As a last resort, the Foreign Office will offer an emergency loan.