Coronavirus travel advice

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Latest: According to the UK government’s new ‘road map’, foreign holidays won’t be allowed until 17 May at the earliest, while domestic holidays might be on the cards from 12 April.

Information is changing every day which can make it hard to keep up with the facts that are most relevant to you. We’re continually keeping this page up to date regarding the current coronavirus pandemic, COVID-19, and what impact it might have on your travel plans. So whether you need it now, or in the near future, it’s worth a bookmark.

We strongly recommend reading the coronavirus travel advice from your local authorities and governments, such as the UK’s Foreign Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO), as well as the guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Coronavirus travel restrictions and bans

On 6 January, the UK went into a national lockdown. While there are slightly different rules for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, the principles are the same: a stay-at-home order is in place and all non-essential shops and venues are shut.

The government has also tightened travel restrictions. Anyone traveling internationally must show proof of essential travel reasons at the airport, or face being fined or sent home. On 18 January, the UK government closed all travel corridors. This means that all UK arrivals require a negative COVID test before traveling to the UK, and must self-isolate at home for 10 days after landing.

However, on Monday 22 February, the UK government announced a ‘road map’ which shows a gradual reduction of coronavirus restrictions from 8 March until 21 June. As it stands, foreign holidays from England won’t be allowed until 17 May at the earliest, which will be reviewed in April. Domestic holidays could be on the cards from 12 April but different rules will apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Hotel quarantine and tougher rules

Since 15 February, UK residents returning from 33 ‘red list’ countries have to pay £1,750 for a mandatory 10 days’ quarantine in hotels supervised by private security guards. While in quarantine, it’s compulsory to take a COVID test on days two and eight of your stay. 16 contracted hotels so far will be available to pre-book through a dedicated government portal.

All air arrivals into Scotland must now stay in a hotel quarantine and non-UK residents are banned from entering the UK from red-list countries.

There are strict penalties if you don’t comply with the new rules. Fines range from £5,000 to £10,000 for arrivals who fail to quarantine in a designated hotel, and steep fines apply to anyone who doesn’t undergo COVID testing there. Anyone who attempts to hide any travel from a ‘red list’ country on their PCR form could face a £10,000 fine or 10 years in prison.

In response to the rapid surge in new-variant infections, many countries have also closed their borders to UK travellers. Holidays are off the cards while local lockdowns and travel bans are in place, and Transport Secretary Grant Schapps has warned that a return to international travel will depend on ‘everybody having their vaccinations’ in Britain.

COVID tests and arrival in the UK

All international arrivals to the UK now have to present a negative COVID-19 test result, obtained up to 72 hours before departure. This includes UK nationals, with the exception of hauliers, airline staff, passengers from the Common Travel Area with Ireland and children under 11.

Both LAMP and PCR tests are valid, but failure to comply results in a £500 fine, and spot checks will be carried out.

All arrivals have to self-isolate for 10 days, regardless of their test result (and quarantine in hotels if arriving from red-list countries). However, under the ‘test to release’ initiative, the 10-day quarantine period can reduce to just five days provided that you test negative for COVID-19 five days after arriving back, purchased privately.

Arrivals need to quarantine for five days and then pay to take a COVID test, either at home or a testing center. The tests cost between £65 and £120 and results come back within 24-48 hours, so realistically the quarantine period is only reduced by a couple of days, to seven or eight.

As well as presenting a negative COVID test, it is compulsory for every arrival into the UK to fill in a passenger locator form before they enter the country. You can fill this in online. It includes your passport and travel details, UK address and booking reference number, and the name of the test provider if you’re using Test to Release. You might be fined if you haven’t filled out the form by the time you reach the UK border.

COVID vaccine news UK

On 7 December, the UK became the first western country to start rolling out a COVID-19 vaccine. Now, both the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines are being rolled out to the British public, starting with frontline workers and the most vulnerable groups. So far, over 15 million British residents have been vaccinated with a first jab of two.

The coronavirus vaccine should have been made available to all by the summer. According to our research, the news of a COVID vaccine in the UK has resulted in 41% of the population feeling increased confidence in the prospect of travelling abroad within the next six months.*

*The survey for Skyscanner was carried out among 2,152 adults by AudienceNet between 27 and 29 November 2020.  

Can I travel within the UK?

Currently, no. England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are all under lockdown, prohibiting domestic holidays. Travel between their borders is banned, unless for essential reasons. According to the UK government’s new ‘road map’ for easing coronavirus restrictions, domestic holidays in England could be possible from 12 April.

Countries have imposed travel restrictions due to the coronavirus outbreak, and many countries have imposed travel bans from the UK since the news broke of a new variant of the coronavirus, in London and southeast England. Check the FCDO website for daily updates on specific destinations.

To find out about specific airline route information, as well as current coronavirus flight cancellations, rebooking, or refund policies, you can find all the latest news and travel updates on their websites or check with the International Air Travel Association. While flights are being canceled more regularly than usual, it’s likely that you won’t be entitled to a refund if your flight is not canceled but you can’t fly due to the lockdown.

Some flights are still running, although those in operation are exercising social distancing and mandatory mask-wearing. Quarantine on arrival often applies as well as other measures such as temperature checks and proof of a negative COVID test. Check the entry criteria for each destination before traveling, on the IATA information page.

white airplane's wing at flight photo – Free Image on Unsplash
  1. Ryanair: If your flight gets cancelled due to coronavirus you will be given the option to request a travel voucher or refund via their refund application form, but those who choose not to fly due to FCDO rules on flights that are running will not be eligible for a refund. You can change your flight with no change fee, if booked before 31 March 2021 for travel before 31 October 2021.
  2. easyJet: easyJet Holidays has cancelled all holidays until 24 March. The airline has launched a ‘protection promise’, offering a refund guarantee for flights and holidays if they’re cancelled, or for plans that are impacted by travel bans. Flights can be changed free of charge up to 14 days before departure.
  3. Jet2: The airline has cancelled all flights and holidays until 14 April. Customers whose travel plans are affected by these cancellations will be given an automatic, full refund.
  4. Wizz Air: If your flight gets cancelled due to coronavirus restrictions you will be offered a refund or credit for a future flight. You can rebook to an alternative destination provided it is not subject to travel restrictions.
  5. Emirates: If your flight is cancelled due to COVID-19 travel restrictions, you can request a refund or complete a Travel Voucher request form to re-book your flight up to 24 months later.
  6. Norwegian: Norwegian Airlines is operating a limited flight schedule until further notice. If your flight is cancelled you will receive a confirmation via SMS and email. You can request a refund of your unused ticket, or opt for flight credit and get an extra 20% towards a future trip. 
  7. TUI: TUI has cancelled all holidays until 7 March, with all impacted customers receiving an automatic refund or given the option to rebook.
  8. KLM: Existing bookings can be rebooked free of charge for travel until 30 June 2021. Refund and rebooking options differ depending on when the flight was booked and scheduled for departure.
  9. Virgin Atlantic: If you want to change your booking, you can rebook for travel up to 31 December 2022. If your flight is cancelled, you will be contacted to discuss refund and rebooking options, and your ticket will automatically be kept open as a credit to use up to 31 December 2022.
  10. Vueling Airlines: You’ll receive an email from the airline if your flight is cancelled, as well as a URL to a form where you’ll be able to reschedule your flight for free or request a refund. The airline has removed all change fees from website and app bookings.
  11. British Airways: If your flight has been cancelled you will be offered a voucher to the value of your booking or a refund.
  12. Finnair: Bookings made up to 31 August 2021 can be rescheduled free of charge, thanks to the airline’s Book with confidence policy. If your flight is cancelled you will be contacted by the airline to discuss rebooking or refund options, which are also available via this form. Customers travelling from Finland who book by 30 April 2021 get complimentary Corona Cover (additional coronavirus-related travel insurance).
  13. Turkish Airlines: Flights were suspended until 28 May 2020. Any bookings made before 20 March 2020 can be rebooked free of charge until 28 February 2021, and bookings made after 20 March 2020 can be rescheduled for free until 31 December 2021.

Have you been impacted by coronavirus flight cancellations? Get more useful advice in our article on what to do if your flight is cancelled or delayed.

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Article by @skyscanner