UK Lockdown: How can stranded Brits get back to the UK during the coronavirus crisis?
24 March 2020, 13:50 | Updated: 24 March 2020, 13:53
After calls from the government for Brits abroad to return to the UK, many found themselves on the end of a crisis in the travel industry.
We advise British people travelling abroad to return to the UK now, if commercial flights are still available.— Foreign Office 🇬🇧 (@foreignoffice) March 24, 2020
Follow @FCOTravel for latest updates #coronavirus | #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/NjCloOky4E
As many countries begin to close their borders to prevent the spread of coronavirus, Britons have found, themselves with no idea of when and how they will make it home.
The Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab told those who are abroad to make plans to come back to the UK as soon as possible before borders close, but his calls have come too late in some countries. Travel writer Simon Calder told James O'Brien that the UAE have closed their borders which has grounded Emirates Airlines flights, one of the biggest airlines in the world, covering more cross-continent ground than any other.
Travel writer Simon Calder told James O'Brien that options for people are slowly drying up and told of disastrous scenarios in Australasia, where Brits in New Zealand and Australia "simply found that every possible option was closing down around them" and have been left in the dark as to what to do next.
Mr. Calder told James that there are so few flights back to the UK in Australia, that all he could find was one seat on a Qantas flight from Sydney on Thursday- that was all.
James read out the worries of one listener in Australia.
"There's not whispers of our government trying to get us home" it read. Simon defended the government's strategy, insisting that the foreign office doesn't usually have to work in such an extensive manner across a range of territories. "Suddenly they have to deal with a huge almost humanitarian crisis" he said.
My message to British people travelling abroad: As borders around the world close and international travel becomes more difficult, you are strongly advised to return to the UK now, where & while there are still commercial travel options available. Keep up to date with @FCOtravel— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) March 23, 2020
Mr. Calder said that the government has set precedent for how the rest of the world's authorities act on this matter. Although commercial flights may be dropping off, mercy flights the UK government have put on previously from Wuhan and Tokyo for Diamond Princess passengers should be evidence that relief will come for dejected travellers.
I spoke to my counterpart in Peru today, @GMeza_Cuadra and we committed to work together in the coming days, so Britons in Peru and Peruvian nationals in UK can return home, amidst the challenges of tackling Covid-19.— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) March 21, 2020
Simon Calder stated that these travellers are not finding any help "from airlines, no help from travel companies and no real response from the foreign office", although he did insist that this will change in the coming days.
When James asked what the public can learn from this crisis, Mr. Calder said that the best people can do is to "trust a proper travel professional to sort your trip."
"The travel industry when it finally emerges from this will be much reduced" Mr. Calder said, predicting a massive drop-off in employee numbers in the travel and tourism industry.