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Why are so many flights between Spain and UK getting cancelled?

Because of ongoing restrictions in the UK, dozens of flights have been cancelled between the UK and Spain this summer, until at least mid-July, causing even more frustration for those trying to visit family, get back to holiday homes, or simply take a vacation.

Why are so many flights between Spain and UK getting cancelled?
Photo: Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

TUI has put many of its routes to Spain on hold until the middle of July, while EasyJet has also cancelled hundreds of its flights to amber-list countries that were scheduled for June and July. Jet2 also cancelled all international flights and holidays up to July 1st.

While most of the reports have been about budget airlines cancelling flights, there have also been some cancellations by major carriers such as British Airways.

Despite Spain being open to travellers from the UK since May 24th without the need for quarantine or a negative Covid-19 test, it still seems difficult to get a flight.

READ ALSO: CONFIRMED: Spain to welcome British tourists without PCRs or quarantine from Monday May 24th

Several disgruntled passengers have taken to Twitter to vent their frustration at more cancelled flights.

One wrote “@easyJet I have just learned my flight to Spain on July 7th is cancelled (I did not receive a notification email). I had to choose a different flight which will mess up with everything I had planned”.

Another tweeted: “@easyJet just cancelled our flights to Spain on July 5th, AGAIN!” while someone else got in touch to say their flight to Spain had been cancelled four times this year already.

But it’s not just Brits trying to get out here on holiday, one person trying to get home tweeted: “Crying because my flight home to Spain got cancelled!! All I want to do is go home and hug my family!! It’s nearly been 2 years now!!”.

And it’s not just flights from the UK to Spain that are being cancelled, several are also being cancelled from Spain to the UK.

One passenger wrote “@easyJet flight cancelled again – I need to get to the UK by July 2nd as I start work 10 days later, enough time to quarantine. You must have a flight out of southern Spain to anywhere in the London area on July 1st or 2nd”. 

Why are so many flights being cancelled?

Many airlines decided to cancel their flights after the UK pushed back its so-called ‘Freedom Day’ – the day when all Covid-19 restrictions were to be lifted – by four weeks. 

But are they being cancelled due to lack of demand or is it simply a reaction to the UK government’s traffic light system and which countries make the green list?

The Local Spain spoke to a representative from TUI who said: “As it currently stands, the travel advice from the FCDO hasn’t changed for Spain and it is still against travel advice to go there, which is separate from the amber list. We’re therefore not sending anyone to Spain until that changes, apart from the Canaries (which FCDO allows). We constantly review our holiday programme and cancellations in line with the government updates every three weeks”. 

Flights are being cancelled between UK and Spain. Photo: JAVIER SORIANO / AFP

Is it just flights to and from small airports in the UK and Spain that are being cancelled?

While there have been numerous reports of flights to Spain from smaller airports such as Doncaster and Glasgow being cancelled, unfortunately, there have also been reports of cancellations to and from larger airports including London, Edinburgh and Madrid too. 

A recent EasyJet flight from Edinburgh to Madrid was cancelled as was another from Glasgow to Malaga.

What can I do about it?

TUI told The Local Spain: “We know some customers may be unsure about travelling this summer, so we’ve offered free changes 14 days before travel for anyone due to travel before the end of August”.

On their website, EasyJet states that passengers who had their flights cancelled could either rebook for a different Easyjet flight, accept a voucher or take a refund, while Wizz Air also offers the chance to rebook your flight for free, to get a refund or accept Wizz credits. 

Make sure you book outbound and return flights with the same airline. If your outbound flight with one airline gets cancelled, but the return flight is still scheduled with another airline, then you may not be able to get a refund or free flight change from the second airline. 

One reader got in touch to say that they couldn’t get out to Spain because Jet2 had cancelled their outgoing flight, but that Ryanair wouldn’t let them get a refund or a voucher for the return flight that they wouldn’t be able to use. 

One option to avoid cancelled flights could be to fly in and out of Gibraltar and then to travel into Spain. Because Gibraltar is currently on the UK’s green list, it has dramatically increased in popularity. EasyJet, Wizz Air, British Airways and Eastern Airways have all reportedly put on extra flights to Gibraltar to meet the demand. 

According to the Visit Gibraltar website Spain is on Gibraltar’s green list, so you are able to enter from mainland Spain providing you present a negative Covid-19 Lateral Flow Test upon arrival.

According to the UK government website, if you’ve been to mainland Spain within 10 days, flying in and out of Gibraltar still means that you will need to quarantine for 10 days upon arrival in the UK and take Covid-19 tests on day two and day eight.

When can I safely book flights between Spain and UK again?

Reports indicate that airlines that have been cancelling their flights will continue to do so up until at least mid-July, so booking a flight between now and then could still be risky.

However, the next UK government review of its traffic light system is expected to be on June 24th, so if Spain is added to the green list, the situation could change very quickly.

Toni Mayor, head of the Hosbec association of Valencia region hoteliers told The Telegraph that he did not expect to see the bulk of UK tourism to Spain take off until August, which could mean there might still be flight cancellations up until then.

READ ALSO: LATEST: What are the rules for travelling to Spain from all countries?

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Spain rules out EU’s advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 

Spain’s Health Ministry said Thursday there will be no mandatory vaccination in the country following the European Commission’s advice to Member States to “think about it” and Germany’s announcement that it will make vaccines compulsory in February.

Spain rules out EU's advice on compulsory Covid-19 vaccination 
A Spanish man being vaccinated poses with a custom-made T-shirt showing Spain's chief epidimiologist Fernando Simón striking a 'Dirty Harry/Clint Eastwood' pose over the words "What part of keep a two-metre distance don't you understand?' Photo: José Jordan

Spain’s Health Minister Carolina Darias on Thursday told journalists Covid-19 vaccines will continue to be voluntary in Spain given the “very high awareness of the population” with regard to the benefits of vaccination.

This follows the words of European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday, urging Member States to “think about mandatory vaccination” as more cases of the Omicron variant are detected across Europe. 

READ ALSO: Is Spain proving facts rather than force can convince the unvaccinated?

“I can understand that countries with low vaccine coverage are contemplating this and that Von der Leyen is considering opening up a debate, but in our country the situation is absolutely different,” Darias said at the press conference following her meeting with Spain’s Interterritorial Health Council.

According to the national health minister,  this was also “the general belief” of regional health leaders of each of Spain’s 17 autonomous communities she had just been in discussion with over Christmas Covid measures. 

READ MORE: Spain rules out new restrictions against Omicron variant

Almost 80 percent of Spain’s total population is fully vaccinated against Covid-19, a figure which is around 10 percent higher if looking at those who are eligible for the vaccine (over 12s). 

It has the highest vaccination rate among Europe’s most populous countries.

Germany announced tough new restrictions on Thursday in a bid to contain its fourth wave of Covid-19 aimed largely at the country’s unvaccinated people, with outgoing Chancellor Angela Merkel speaking in favour of compulsory vaccinations, which the German parliament is due to vote on soon.

Austria has also already said it will make Covid-19 vaccines compulsory next February, Belgium is also considering it and Greece on Tuesday said it will make vaccination obligatory for those over 60.

But for Spain, strict Covid-19 vaccination rules have never been on the table, having said from the start that getting the Covid-19 jabs was voluntary. 

There’s also a huge legal implication to imposing such a rule which Spanish courts are unlikely to look on favourably. 

Stricter Covid restrictions and the country’s two states of alarm, the first resulting in a full national lockdown from March to May 2020, have both been deemed unconstitutional by Spain’s Constitutional Court. 

READ ALSO: Could Spain lock down its unvaccinated or make Covid vaccines compulsory?

The Covid-19 health pass to access indoor public spaces was also until recently consistently rejected by regional high courts for breaching fundamental rights, although judges have changed their stance favouring this Covid certificate over old Covid-19 restrictions that affect the whole population.

MAP: Which regions in Spain now require a Covid health pass for daily affairs?

“In Spain what we have to do is to continue vaccinating as we have done until now” Darias added. 

“Spaniards understand that vaccines are not only a right, they are an obligation because we protect others with them”.

What Spanish health authorities are still considering is whether to vaccinate their 5 to 11 year olds after the go-ahead from the European Medicines Agency, with regions such as Madrid claiming they will start vaccinating their young children in December despite there being no official confirmation from Spain’s Vaccine Committee yet.

READ MORE: Will Spain soon vaccinate its children under 12?

Spain’s infection rate continues to rise day by day, jumping 17 points up to 234 cases per 100,000 people on Thursday. There are now also five confirmed cases of the Omicron variant in the country, one through community transmission.

Hospital bed occupancy with Covid patients has also risen slightly nationwide to 3.3 percent, as has ICU Covid occupancy which now stands at 8.4 percent, but the Spanish government insists these figures are “almost three times lower” than during previous waves of the coronavirus pandemic.