Coronavirus: British holidaymakers forced to fend for themselves after FCO travel ban

Exclusive: Travellers have been forced to pay hundreds more to get home

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Wednesday 18 March 2020 10:10 GMT
'No help' for British holidaymakers rushing home

British holidaymakers returning to the UK after the Foreign Office warning to avoid non-essential travel have criticised the lack of help from airlines, travel firms and consular staff.

The latest travel advice is aimed at reducing the number of British travellers caught by closed borders and flight restrictions as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. It came as a growing number of countries announced bans on international flights – with Sri Lanka announcing a ban on arrivals from 4am local time on Thursday 19 March.

Many British travellers say they have had to spend hundreds of pounds on new flights.

Janice Cakir from Rotherham touched down at Heathrow late on Tuesday night.

“I was stuck in Istanbul, my flight was cancelled by Pegasus, so I phoned the embassy,” she told The Independent.

“No help whatsoever, they just said I had to keep in touch with my flight company.

“I think when you phone them up and you’re trapped in a foreign country they definitely should give you more help than just say, ‘Get in touch with the airlines’.

“In the end I went to the airport, and my friend got me a ticket through Aegean which went to Athens and through to Heathrow.”

The original ticket had cost £70, but the replacement was £550.

Nicky Fernandez from Cambridge and her husband, Oscar, were sightseeing in Cairo when they got word of an impending flight ban from Egypt.

“We heard nothing from Expedia, who we booked through, or from Egyptair, who we’re flying with, so we had to go through our [hotel] concierge.

“We were advised to go to the embassy, but the British Embassy were not opening the doors, despite there being a queue of us and other nationals.

“They gave us the Home Office number, but they didn’t respond.

“Eventually we had to come straight to the airport to try to book an earlier flight for an additional £630 each.”

The Independent estimates that between 500,000 and 600,000 British travellers were abroad when the new Foreign Office advice was announced on Tuesday.

A Foreign Office 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.”

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