Mum furious after spending £900 to change flight home from Portugal

3 September 2020, 20:47 | Updated: 4 September 2020, 07:26

Portugal was surprisingly left on England's safe travel corridor list on Thursday
Portugal was surprisingly left on England's safe travel corridor list on Thursday. Picture: PA
Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

A mother has been left furious after spending nearly £1,000 to change her family's flight home from Portugal after expecting it to be removed from England's travel corridor list.

Kelly, from Birmingham, coughed up £900 to move her family's flight home from the Algarve to Friday after originally planning to return on Saturday.

The 45-year-old said she made the decision to avoid having to self-isolate upon arrival in England - expecting Portugal to be added to the exemption list after a rise in coronavirus cases.

However, she accused the UK Government of "moving the goalposts left, right and centre" after it announced the air bridge with Portugal would remain in place.

The mother said she paid Jet2 the money to change her flights home from Faro - anticipating the reintroduction of quarantine measures - to ensure her three children would not miss out on two weeks of school.

Read more: Portugal and Greece remain on England's travel corridor list

Read more: Which countries are exempt and could future changes affect my booking?

On Thursday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps defied expectations by announcing there would be no changes in England to quarantine rules for people returning from countries.

However, Kelly said the situation was "absolutely disgusting", adding: "It's cost us a lot more money and it's money we didn't need to spend now.

"We've lost an extra night in our villa - we won't get that back - we've got a hire car, so we're taking that back a day early. It's the knock-on effects as well."

The mother-of-three said she and her husband decided to change their journey home after monitoring the country's seven-day infection rate.

Portugal reached 23 infections per 100,000 people on Wednesday, which is above the government's stated quarantine threshold of 20.

Read more: France unveils €100bn plan to 'reboot' economy after coronavirus

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Kelly said: "The government just change the goalposts left, right and centre at the moment. It's embarrassing.

"They don't make things clear enough. They say they need the rate under 20 and it's gone above that this week, so why wouldn't you think it would go on the quarantine list tonight?

"You can guarantee if I hadn't have booked those flights on Monday, that air bridge would have been removed tonight."

She also said she could not risk having to self-isolate upon return to Birmingham as her youngest child, who is four, is starting school for the first time next week, while her other two children, 11 and seven, are starting new schools.

"There's no way it would be fair on them two weeks later to go in when everyone else has already started to settle," she said.

In previous weeks, the government has announced changes to its exemption list on Thursday with changes coming into force at 4am on Saturday, leading to a scramble for passengers to return in time to avoid having to quarantine.

However, Mr Shapps had previously said other factors, including the extent of testing and whether outbreaks are "contained", are taken into account when considering changes to the list.

Meanwhile, Kelly believes it would be fairer on holidaymakers to be given more time to change their plans.

"It's always lastminute.com with the government," she said. "They do the announcement on a Thursday night and then you've got til 4 o'clock on a Saturday morning to get home, which they know you can't do.

"They don't give you enough time to do anything. They could have said at the start of the week 'the numbers are going up but we're going to sit on it for another seven to 10 days' but they don't do that.

"It's like, 'we make the decision at five o'clock on a Thursday night and that's it: bang, get home'. That's where it's wrong."

Although Portugal remained on England's exemption list, the Welsh Government announced on Thursday that those returning to Wales from Portugal, Gibraltar and seven Greek islands after 4am on Saturday would need to quarantine.

Meanwhile, those returning to Scotland from Portugal and French Polynesia after the same time and date will also need to self-isolate upon arrival.

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