As Priti Patel prepares to announce mandatory 14 days of quarantine for arrivals to the UK and returning holidaymakers, the giant travel firm Jet2 has cancelled all its June holidays.
The Leeds-based airline and tour operator had planned to re-start services from 17 June, exactly three months after the Foreign Office imposed a warning against all-but-essential travel abroad.
The mid-June date matched closely plans in Europe for opening up after lockdown, and easyJet’s intended restart of services.
But a spokesperson for Jet2 said: “In view of the ongoing travel restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, we have taken the decision to recommence our flights and holidays programme on 1 July.”
Disappointed holidaymakers are entitled to a full refund, but may choose to postpone their trips.
The spokesperson said: “Customers who were due to travel before 1 July do not need to contact us. We are continuing to proactively contact customers to discuss their options, one of which is rebooking their holiday to a later date.
“If a customer has a booking that is due to depart on or after 1 July, the booking is subject to our normal terms and conditions.”
Jet2’s rival, Tui, has not yet announced its response to the Home Office’s quarantine policy. Tui is Britain’s biggest holiday company and was due to resume trips on 12 June. It is offering customers the chance to postpone any holiday booked in June, July and August.
The government says: “Now that domestic transmission within the UK is coming under control, and other countries begin to lift lockdown measures, it is the right time to prepare new measures at the border.”
But the move has united almost the entire UK travel industry in condemnation of a policy that many say is “too much, too late” – and will finish off businesses that are already reeling.
Kane Pirie, the managing director of Vivid Travel, said: “Fourteen-day quarantining for UK arrivals will throw petrol on to the blaze of businesses, brands and trust.
“The government has not missed a trick so far in how to make this multi-billion-pound crisis worse.”
The travel writer and former tour operator Neil Taylor said: “I wonder if the Civil Aviation Authority have drawn up a list of tour operators likely to say this is the final straw and they will pack in now?
“The same could apply to incoming operators and attractions, desperately waiting for some solace during what is normally the peak season.”
Abta, the travel association, said quarantine “will have a damaging impact on the UK inbound and outbound tourism industry”.
Paul Goldstein, owner of safari camps in Kenya, said: “The government have utterly buried us with their blanket Foreign Office advice against travel, and now the utterly ludicrous and unworkable quarantine.
“They have not helped travel or airlines in the slightest and seem not to care about these crucial employers.”
The Labour MP and former Cabinet minister, Ben Bradshaw, tweeted: “The most useless home secretary in history is about to announce a quarantine with no basis in science, not backed by WHO [World Health Organisation], just as the rest of Europe opens up, dealing a hammer blow to an economy already on its knees & depriving Brits uniquely of their foreign hols this year.”
Also on Twitter, Darren Wheeler wrote: “Nobody will come to the UK. Nobody can go anywhere because of it.
“At a single stroke the government have destroyed Europe’s biggest aviation industry and cost thousands of jobs, not to mention billions pumped into the economy.
“@pritipatel @BorisJohnson @grantshapps – Happy now?”