There has been a lot of talk this week about ‘air bridges’ and how they might offer holidaymakers a chance to enjoy a couple of weeks away.
Nothing has been firmed up yet, while pressure continues to be exerted on the Government to think again about its 14-day quarantine rule for all those arriving in the UK.
Here are the answers you need.
There has been a lot of talk this week about ‘air bridges’ and how they might offer holidaymakers a chance to enjoy a couple of weeks away
Q. What exactly are these ‘air bridges’ that we keep hearing so much about?
A. Special agreements — or pacts — between individual countries to allow holidaymakers to travel quarantine-free this summer.
Q. Fine, so what on earth is a ‘travel corridor’?
A. Another term for air bridge.
Q. And how about this other phrase, ‘travel bubble’?
A. Same again. Yes, the terminology has been unhelpful.
Q. Are there any air bridges in operation yet?
A. No, but there could be if the Government is able to strike up deals. Then we might be able to go on an overseas holiday this summer.
Tourist hotspot: An Orthodox church in Santorini, Greece
Q. How likely is this to happen in actuality?
A. Don’t start packing just yet. However, there is growing optimism for mid-July onwards as governments in Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy have all made encouraging sounds — tourism being key to their economies.
Spain looks most probable as it has announced there will be no quarantine on visitors from July 1 and it is by far our favourite holiday destination.
Portugal also looks a strong contender, having already said it is in favour of an arrangement of some kind.
Q. What is holding back the other countries from inviting us?
A. Britain having the worst coronavirus record in Europe is worrying some nations, particularly Greece and Croatia.
Q. If the number of cases in Britain drops, might other countries be interested in air bridges, too?
A. Potentially. If numbers of coronavirus fall to very low levels — and who knows how long this will take — fruitful talks could begin.
Q. Are there any other hurdles that might get in our way?
A. Yes. On June 8, the Government is introducing a quarantine requiring 14 days of self-isolation for Britons returning to the UK. Online ‘contact locator forms’ must be filled in and police will carry out spot checks with fines of up to £1,000 for breaches.
Q. Is there anything else would-be travellers have to contend with?
A. The Foreign & Commonwealth Office currently advises against all non-essential overseas travel, meaning travel insurance is invalid and it is very risky to travel without cover.
Q. So we may as well stop dreaming of a summer holiday, then?
A. Some industry insiders actually think the opposite.
Plenty of last-minute bargains are likely. Tour operators — as well as foreign hoteliers and tourist boards — are desperate to re-start tourism
Q. Why would they think that — the odds seem stacked against it?
A. Britain’s quarantine policy is being reviewed every three weeks. The first review could be around June 12, and the next around July 3.
It is possible, say travel industry insiders, that if other countries are keen, the quarantine could be dropped to create air bridges at some point. Many MPs have been campaigning for the Government to reconsider the quarantine.
Q. What about the Foreign & Commonwealth Office advice?
A. That will have to change, too – which it could feasibly at any moment.
Q. What does Britain’s leading tour operator say about all this?
A. Tui’s overseas package holidays for Germans are likely to restart on June 14. The first destinations Tui will be offering German holidaymakers will be the Balearics, the Canaries, Cyprus and Greece. British holidaymakers could follow soon after if all the above problems are resolved.
Q. If air bridges happen, will there be some good deals?
A. Plenty of last-minute bargains are likely. Tour operators — as well as foreign hoteliers and tourist boards — are desperate to re-start tourism.
When it comes to booking a holiday, the only sensible policy is to hold off. If you want a trip overseas this summer, patience will be key
Q. All of this sounds complicated — why can’t I just buy Ryanair or Wizz Air tickets and take my chances before then?
A. You can, but you would be uninsured, you will have to find a country who would let you in and you would face a quarantine period on your return to Britain.
Q. Maybe it’s best to gamble and book a package in, say, late July or August now as there’s likely to be a stampede if air bridges do go ahead later?
A. Not a good idea. There are too many ifs and buts. The only sensible policy is to hold off. If you want a trip overseas this summer, patience will be key.
Q. What if I own a property in France or Spain and want to go for a break?
A. Keep following FCO advice and stay abreast of Government announcements.
Q. Any other suggestions that might help me to take a break?
A. How about a holiday in the UK? Or put your feet up in the back garden and save for a ‘trip of a lifetime’ next year.
Q. All this sounds promising but what about Test and Trace?
A. If you are contacted by the NHS Test and Trace service as someone who has been in contact with another person who has had coronavirus, you must self-isolate for 14 days, so no holiday until that’s over.
Q. What would happen then — would I get a refund?
A. In the UK, you will be due a full refund, although you may have to postpone if that is in the terms and conditions. If you are travelling overseas, you will be asked to claim a refund on your travel insurance, says Tui. If that is not possible, Tui is requesting customers to re-book for a later date
HOW OTHER COUNTRIES ARE SHAPING UP
Hotels: Reopening on Monday. They can display ‘Clean & Safe’ stamps to prove they have introduced hygiene and safety procedures. Rooms must be unoccupied for 24 hours between guests for deep cleaning. Some campsites in the Algarve opened last week.
Restaurants and bars: Open at half capacity and closing at 11pm.
Beaches: Due to reopen on June 6. Umbrellas will be spaced three metres apart. Tourists can download an app which will use a traffic-light system to indicate beach capacity.
Transport: Wizz Air will restart flights from June 16; Ryanair from July 1. Temperature checks on arrival.
Quarantine: Hopefully not. The UK is in talks to create an ‘air bridge’ with Portugal.
Hotels: Many have reopened, with limited access to communal spaces.
Restaurants and bars: Outdoor seating areas have opened at half capacity. Most will be fully operational next week.
Beaches: Open, but some are limiting capacity and sectioning off areas for vulnerable groups.
Transport: International flights resuming early July.
Quarantine: Yes. To be lifted from July 1.
Hotels: Reopening from next week with reduced capacity and a two-metre distance policy.
Restaurants and bars: Reopened on May 18 with tables being spaced two metres apart.
Beaches: Most are open, with umbrellas five metres apart.
Transport: Flights resuming from June 3 when travel between regions will also be permitted.
Quarantine: Yes. To be lifted June 3.
Hotels: Begin opening on Monday. Guests required to keep two metres apart.
Restaurants and bars: Open with tables spaced at least two metres apart.
Beaches: Reopened last week. Regularly disinfected sunbeds and beach bar tables are being kept two metres apart.
Transport: Some international flights will begin on June 9.
Quarantine: No. Passengers are currently required to undergo a coronavirus test three days prior to departure. This will be lifted from June 9 for some countries, and reviewed every week. Temperatures will be taken on arrival.
A 100-bed hospital is being built for travellers who test positive. Cyprus’s government has pledged to cover all costs for every holidaymaker testing positive and their family.
Hotels: Open from June 15, campsites from June 1.
Restaurants and bars: Reopened on Monday with tables set two metres apart and waiters wearing masks.
Beaches: Many accessible, with umbrellas spaced four metres apart, some surrounded by protective screens, and a limit of 40 people per 1,000 square metres.
Transport: International flights resume on July 1. Ferry services to its islands started on Monday.
Quarantine: Yes. This week Greece left the UK off a list of countries that can visit from June 15 without self-isolating.
Hotels: Open June 2, when travel limits are lifted.
Restaurants and bars: Also resuming business from June 2. Some restrictions will still in place in the worst-hit regions.
Beaches: Most reopening next week. Some will have time slots.
Transport: International flights resuming next month.
Quarantine: Borders closed until June 15, when EU tourists may be able to return. UK travellers will have to self-isolate for 14 days.
By Harriet Sime