<p>Empty quarter: a beach in Montenegro, now on the UK ‘red list’  </p>

Empty quarter: a beach in Montenegro, now on the UK ‘red list’

Dozens of easyJet passengers from Montenegro face hotel quarantine after red list flight fiasco

Exclusive: ’Kids were exhausted more than ever. They cried and couldn’t understand why we couldn’t fly’ – passenger Hakan Baybaş, one of many turned away from the replacement flight

Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Tuesday 31 August 2021 06:25
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Dozens of easyJet passengers from Montenegro face 11 nights in hotel quarantine after the airline's planned “pre-red list” evacuation flight failed to depart.

The Balkan republic was placed on the UK government's red list at 4am on Monday morning because of concerns over coronavirus rates. Arrivals after that time are required to pay around £2,000 to stay in an airport hotel.

To enable travellers to beat the deadline, easyJet moved its planned Monday departure from the resort airport of Tivat to London Gatwick a day earlier. Tickets for the one-way flight were selling at £265.

But the aircraft suffered a technical failure and was unable to depart from the airport back to the UK. Because of the limited hours of operation at Tivat airport, another aircraft was despatched from Manchester to Dubrovnik.

The airline organised coaches to take passengers across the Croatian border to the airport. But passengers who have the right to enter the UK but not the European Union protested that they would be unable to enter the EU.

They urged the airline to operate a plane from the capital, Podgorica, instead. But according to one of the passengers, Hakan Baybaş, their protests were ignored.

“The solution which easyJet found was for only British citizens,” he tweeted. “Even though we told them that we don’t have a Schengen visa they took us to Croatia and took us back to Tivat.”

”After leaving us behind, additionally border police stamped 'denied' to our passports; easyJet sent a bus at 2am and took us into a very bad hotel at 3:30am in Tivat.

“Kids were exhausted more than ever. They cried and couldn't understand why we couldn't fly.“

The Dubrovnik flight finally landed at Gatwick just two minutes ahead of the 4am deadline, with 155 passengers on board.

One of them, Alexia Bencini, tweeted: “The person who sat next to me on the first plane was not there for the second. He knew he wouldn’t have been allowed in Croatia.

“Easyjet either didn’t care or was severely misinformed. I am grateful that we landed at 3.58am. But we should all have been there. This mess was avoidable.”

The passengers left behind are now waiting to see what options the airline will offer.

A spokesperson for easyJet said: “We are very sorry for this extremely difficult situation which arose from the country status change to ‘red’ and the technical issue.

“We did everything we could including flying a second repatriation aircraft in to try and get all customers back to the UK in time for the deadline.

“We are very grateful to our pilots and crew for managing to bring back 155 customers back just ahead of the deadline.

“We feel for those customers who we not permitted to enter Croatia by border authorities and so are supporting them with their additional accommodation and travel needs.”

The travellers are faced with either hotel quarantine or spending 10 full days in a different country, such as neighbouring Albania.

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