The Independent’s journalism is supported by our readers. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn commission.

Ryanair, Jet2 and easyJet leave passengers stranded in Europe with no way home

Exclusive: Britons complain of chaotic response, with no help from British consulates or airlines

Dominic Raab says 'close to a million' Britis may be abroad - and may have to stay there 'for a period'

UK citizens are being left stranded all across Europe after airlines cancelled their flights without offering them any alternative means of getting home.

Anxious holidaymakers have been getting in touch with The Independent to report that they are stuck abroad in countries that are shutting their borders, and are receiving no information from either the Foreign Office or their airlines.

Ryanair, Jet2 and easyJet have all been cancelling passengers’ flights back to the UK – the emails offer a refund or say customers can rebook on a limited number of alternative services through the website.

In most cases, there are no flights available for a month to six weeks.

Heidi Edmundson, an emergency medicine consultant who is keen to return home so she can join frontline staff in treating coronavirus patients, is currently stuck in Morocco, having travelled from airport to airport to try to get on a flight back to the UK.

She told The Independent that Ryanair cancelled their flight back, scheduled for 21 March, but offered no alternative.

“On Tuesday evening I received a text from Ryanair telling me to check my emails,” she said.

“It was a standard ‘we have cancelled your flight’ email. They offered us the option of getting a refund or booking onto another flight when one became available. No other flights were available.

“We have not been able to get hold of Ryanair since.”

Ms Edmundson and her group had similarly little luck with the British embassy in Morocco. Having repeatedly tried to contact them, she finally got through, only to be told the decision by Morocco to close its borders had “taken them by surprise”.

“They suggested we sign up for updates, which we did. We never got any,” she added. “They said it might take 24-48 hours but rescue flights would need to be arranged. This would either be from the airline or the government.

“We have not been able to contact the embassy since.”

The group read on social media that turning up at the airport and speaking to airline representatives was the surest way to get a flight back.

On Wednesday, they travelled to Essaouira airport, only to find it was closed. On the window was a contact number for Ryanair – “the same one we had been phoning and no one was answering,” said Ms Edmundson.

The group managed to book onto an easyJet flight to Marrakech, which was subsequently cancelled, and then booked seats on another easyJet flight scheduled to depart from Agadir today.

“Agadir airport is absolute mayhem,” said Ms Edmundson.

“There’s no one here from the airlines or embassy to give any advice or assistance.

“We’ve also been told by people in the queue that flights had been cancelled the previous day.

“There are loads of stranded Brits and no information.”

Another passenger reported receiving the same treatment from Ryanair.

“Ryanair have abandoned us in Gran Canaria with no help to get home. Cancelled our flights and washed their hands of us!” Jennifer Jones told The Independent. “We’ve spent over £700 for a flight home tomorrow, earlier than our scheduled one and have to fly in to Birmingham instead of Manchester. But to be honest we don’t think we’ll get on it – when/if we get to the desk I worry we’ll be told it’s overbooked and we can’t fly.”

Ryanair has said it “will continue to stay in close contact with the Foreign Ministries of all EU Governments on the repatriation of EU citizens, and where possible we may operate rescue flights to support this repatriation,” although it declined to give any information about these rescue flights.

US Surgeon General urges influencers to warn young people about coronavirus

Jet2 passengers have experienced similar problems.

Ann Beattie has been in the Algarve in Portugal since the end of November, and was due to fly home to the UK on 26 March.

However, Jet2 cancelled her flight. An email seen by The Independent reads: “Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, we’ve suspended all flights between 22 March-30 April 2020. Your flight back to the UK has therefore been cancelled and you will receive a refund in due course.

“If you are currently overseas and looking to return home, we have a limited number of flights on some routes departing between now and Saturday 21 March 2020. Please check Jet2.com for more information.”

Ms Beattie said she had immediately gone through to the website to book a new flight; however, nothing was available until the end of April.

She has only booked travel insurance and accommodation up until 26 March and is unsure what to do if she is still stuck in Portugal.

“I understand that this situation is unprecedented globally and we all must forge together, but to leave people stranded abroad to fend for themselves I think is an appalling way for any company to act,” she said.

Having managed to book an alternative easyJet flight from Faro on 26 March, Ms Beattie is now worried it will be cancelled too after the same scheduled service was grounded this week.

A Jet2 spokesperson said: “We are continuing to operate our scheduled programme, with aircraft flying empty from the UK so that we can fill them and bring customers home. In addition to that programme of scheduled flights and despite the ongoing disruption, we have been putting on extra flights, to bring even more customers home.

“This is an enormously fast-moving and complex situation, and in light of travel bans and restrictions that have been put in place across our destinations, we have had to make the difficult decision to cancel some services back to the UK. We are contacting affected customers to advise them of their options.

“We would like to offer our sincere apologies to any customers affected by this disruption. The health and safety of our customers is of course our number one priority, and we are continuing to do everything we can to look after customers during this unprecedented situation.”

Emma Powell flew out to Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands on 9 March with six friends. They were due to return to the UK on 17 March but their easyJet flight was cancelled after Spain declared a State of Emergency and went into full lock-down, with residents only allowed to leave their homes to buy food.

However, Ms Powell told The Independent she had received no correspondence from the airline.

“We just feel forgotten about,” she said. “You phone the British Consulate and you can’t get through, you phone easyJet and you can’t get through. It’s just mental.”

Having managed to book onto a Ryanair flight instead, this too has been cancelled. Ms Powell said that emergency flights are periodically released online, but get booked up within seconds.

“I think lots of people must be in our position,” she said.

An easyJet spokesperson said: “We would like to reassure customers that where we have had to cancel flights, we are committed to getting customers home as quickly as possible and will be operating rescue flights.

“We are working hard to provide a programme of repatriation flights which will be published on our latest travel information as soon as they are confirmed. These can be found here: https://www.easyjet.com/en/policy/coronavirus-rescue-flights.

“We are emailing and sending SMS messages to customers directly where they provided their contact details at the time of booking to keep them informed on what is happening. Unfortunately some travel agents do not pass customer contact details onto us and as such we don’t have the details for these customers in order to email or SMS them directly so we advise all customers monitor the website.”

A Foreign Office spokesperson told The Independent that it “recognises 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.”

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

Comments

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in