The Greek government has extended a ban on direct flights from Britain until 15 July, amid fears the rate of infection in the UK could spring up as lockdown measures are lifted.
Brits had strong hopes that summer holidays to Greece would be given the green light this week, as so-called air bridges with European countries are expected to be announced in the coming days.
However, Greece today announced it has extended a ban on flights for both the UK and Sweden, causing disruption for thousands of holidaymakers who have already booked summer holidays. Greece was supposed to end a ban on all direct flights from the UK on 1 July, but this has been extended until at least 15 July.
The UK government is tomorrow expected to announce a slew of air bridges with neighbouring countries such as France, Spain and Italy, in a bid to avoid quarantine measures. Portugal is also in talks to create a mutual travel agreement with the UK, though a recent spike in infections in the country has cast doubt over a potential air bridge.
As it stands, all travellers arriving in the UK must quarantine for 14 days to stem the spread of the virus. However, air bridges will create bilateral agreements between the UK and other countries which will effectively scrap the quarantine rule.
It comes as airlines such as Easyjet, Ryanair, and British Airways-owner IAG have threatened to sue the British government over claims the quarantine rule would irreparably damage the UK’s aviation industry.
Travel corridors, if secured, will see official government advice to avoid all but essential travel dropped, as Europe attempts to revive its battered tourism industry.
The UK government is expected to introduce a traffic light system that will classify countries based on the prevalence of coronavirus. “Red” will mean visitors will need to self-isolate on return from that country, “amber” will mean visitors can travel at their own risk, and “green” will mean the country is deemed safer than the UK.
While Prime Minister Boris Johnson has heralded the coming months as the summer of the “staycation,” travel sites have been flooded with bookings for international getaways from British holidaymakers.
Tui said bookings were up 50 per cent week-on-week, while Hays Travel, which purchased Thomas Cook after its collapse last year, said the phones “had not stopped ringing”.
Online travel site Travelsupermarket reported that this weekend had been the busiest for bookings since the start of lockdown, with searches doubling and bookings increasing by 50 per cent.