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Coronavirus in Spain: How are airlines and tour companies reacting to UK quarantine rule?

Since the UK's snap decision to impose quarantine on travellers coming from all regions of Spain, airlines have reacted with dismay, but vow to maintain flight services. Some tour companies however have been forced to cancel holidays.

Coronavirus in Spain: How are airlines and tour companies reacting to UK quarantine rule?
AFP

Tour operator TUI has cancelled all British holidays to mainland Spain from Monday until August 9, after the UK government's decision to require travellers returning from the country to quarantine.

The newly-imposed rule to self-isolate, abruptly introduced at midnight Saturday hours after being announced, follows a surge in coronavirus cases in parts of Spain in recent weeks.

Other major British airlines have so far held off cancelling flights to Spain.

TUI, Britain's biggest tour operator, said its decision did not apply to the Balearic Islands and Canary Islands, where COVID-19 case numbers are markedly lower than in parts of mainland Spain. 

Meanwhile holidaymakers already in the country will still be able to take their original flight home.

German-owned TUI said customers impacted by the cancellations would be able to receive a full refund or the option to rebook their holiday.

The operator said it was in contact with Britain's Foreign Office “to understand” why the government has introduced quarantine measures for all of Spain, when its travel advice is less stringent for the Balearic Islands and Canary Islands.

“We believe regional travel corridors need to be considered,” it said in a statement.

“The UK Government must work closely with the travel industry as this level of uncertainty and confusion is damaging for business and disappointing for those looking forward to a well-deserved break.”

'Disappointed' 

The UK decision requires people arriving from Spain, a popular holiday destination for many Britons, to self-isolate for two weeks.

Struggling British airlines said they were maintaining their flights but “disappointed” by the move.

“This is sadly yet another blow for British holidaymakers and cannot fail to have an impact on an already troubled aviation industry,” British Airways said in a statement.

EasyJet added it would operate its full schedule in the coming days but that customers who no longer wish to travel could transfer their flights without a change fee or receive a voucher for the value of their booking.

“We are disappointed that the government has decided to impose a quarantine requirement for those travelling from the whole of Spain since the increased occurrence of coronavirus is regional rather than nationwide,” the budget carrier said.

The new quarantine measures has dismayed the tourism sector, which was aiming to recover some of its revenues during the peak summer weeks after being decimated by months of lockdown.

Irish no-frills airline Ryanair said Monday it had nosedived into the red in its first quarter — suffering a loss after taxation of 185 million euros ($216 million) — due to the pandemic.

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said the UK move was “the news the travel industry hoped would never happen”. 

“It shows the clear risks to the travel industry that its recovery will not be a smooth ride,” he added.

“The government imposing restrictions puts a spanner in the works and effectively derails their strategy for clawing back some of the losses  experienced earlier this year.”

Investors signalled their unease, with stocks in large operators in the sector down Monday morning on the London Stock Exchange. 

IAG, the parent company of British Airways, lost around 9 percent, while EasyJet was down 11.27 percent and TUI 11.10 percent, in trading up to 0940 GMT.

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TRAVEL NEWS

US to end Covid testing requirement for travellers from Europe

Authorities in the USA have announced the end of the Covid-testing requirement for arrivals from Europe, meaning that fully vaccinated people will soon be able to travel between Europe and the US without needing pre-travel tests.

US to end Covid testing requirement for travellers from Europe

Most of Europe had dropped the testing requirement for fully-vaccinated arrivals in the spring, but the US has maintained the requirement to show proof of a negative test for all arrivals.

However on Friday, the Biden administration announced that it would not renew the testing requirement.

The new rule is expected to come into effect at 12.01 Sunday EDT, until then passengers will still need to show a negative Covid test before they can board a plane to the US.

The US currently bars unvaccinated travellers from entry – although this does not apply to US citizens, US residents or those travelling for essential reasons – there was no announcement on lifting this restriction. 

The CDC said that testing requirements could be reinstated if new variants of Covid emerge, and added that it continues to recommend pre-travel testing. 

Covid travel rules vary between individual countries in Europe, but most countries now only require pre-departure tests for unvaccinated travellers. Check the rules of the country you are travelling to for full details. 

To be counted as ‘fully vaccinated’ travellers must have received both doses of an EMA-approved vaccine – Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca (or a single dose of Janssen).

If their vaccination was more than nine months ago, they need a booster shot in order to be considered fully vaccinated – people who have had a booster do not need a second, even if their booster shot was more than nine months ago.

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