As air fares from the Canary Islands soar ahead of Saturday’s quarantine deadline, the travel industry has reacted with fury to the latest change to the government’s holiday rules.
On Thursday evening, the transport secretary Grant Shapps announced that the Canaries are back on the government’s quarantine list after just seven weeks because of concern about Covid-19 rates.
The Department for Transport imposed what many regard as effectively a travel ban because of the “test positivity” rate. Currently 9 per cent of coronavirus tests in Tenerife and 7 per cent in the Canary Islands as a whole are positive.
UK travellers have until 4am on Saturday to return to the UK if they are to avoid up to 10 days in self-isolation. A Jet2 flight from Tenerife to London Stansted that was priced at €79 just after Mr Shapps’s announcement is now selling at €208 – an increase of 163 per cent.
Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of the Advantage Travel Partnership, said: “The Canary Islands being removed from the travel ‘safe list’ will be absolutely devastating for some travel agents and tour operators.
“The travel industry had started to feel like it was turning a corner, however the removal of the Canaries is hugely damaging.
“Given the limited number of destinations suitable for winter sun holidays that are also exempt from self-isolation upon return to the UK, the majority of departures over the next few weeks would have been to the Canaries, particularly since the UK lockdown has been lifted and in the lead-up to the Christmas period.
“Travel agents will now have the difficult task of re-booking and cancelling passengers, while the majority of their workforce remain on furlough.”
One prospective holidaymaker, Helen from Chester, said: “I’m desperate to book a holiday but it’s quick-changing travel corridors and Covid test costs that just puts me off booking.
“Just feels like one big stress.”
Additional uncertainty prevails because the Foreign Office has not amended its travel advice. Normally, the FCDO moves in step with DfT announcements: issuing a no-go warning citing Covid-19 concerns as soon as the quarantine requirement has been put in place.
But since the Canary Islands announcement, there has been no change.
If that remains the case – because infection rates in most of the Canaries are far lower than in the UK – it would signal a divergence that means travel insurance remains in place and holiday firms can continue to offer holidays.
Britain's biggest holiday company, Tui, is continuing to operate to the Canaries. Customers who cannot quarantine on return are able to switch to an alternative holiday but cannot cancel for a full refund.
Airlines are likely to continue to fly.
Johan Lundgren, chief executive of easyJet, said: “The UK government will be announcing more details of its ‘test to release’ scheme in the coming days which will enable customers to reduce the length of quarantine through a negative test after five days of returning to England so hopefully this will help some customers still keep their travel plans and take that much-needed holiday.”
Passengers booked on easyJet to the Canary Islands can transfer their flights to any destination or change their travel dates without a change fee – but a fare difference may apply.
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