Updated 2.30pm, 31/3: Despite the Foreign Secretary’s announcement, the British Embassy in Madrid has clarified the Government’s stance. They say:
After the Foreign Secretary’s statement yesterday, we’ve had many queries asking about repatriation flights from Spain. There are still commercial options running across Spain, so we are not planning repatriation flights.
Original post 31 March: As Dominic Raab announced yesterday, many thousands of British nationals currently stuck abroad will be flown home under a new arrangement between the British government and a range of airlines including BA, Virgin, EasyJet, Jet2, and Titan. The Government has now confirmed that its plan is a twin-track approach:
- airlines recognising their responsibility for transporting their passengers with pre-booked tickets home, through offering them alternatives where routes are cancelled, allowing them to change tickets, where permissible – including between carriers – and offering them the latest information and advice as the situation changes
- where commercial routes do not exist, the government will provide up to £75 million financial support to enable special charter flights – operated by the airlines above and others – to fly to priority countries to bring back UK residents
The Government says that special charter flights for countries with no commercial routes will be prioritised according to the number of stranded British travellers and their vulnerability, including an assessment of the local health provision. In some places, access for flights to land and the ability to move around within the country to assemble for return flights will also be decisive factors.
Charter flights are already up and running to Ghana and Tunisia, with more countries to be added this week with the aim of bringing people back from countries such as India and South Africa where large numbers of British travellers are stuck and commercial routes are completely suspended. Intense negotiations are underway too with countries around the world to secure permissions for return flights where airspace has been closed.
The British Government has pledged up to £75 million to pay airlines for the additional charter flights to ensure tickets are affordable. Once special flights have been arranged, these will be promoted through the government’s travel advice and by the British embassy or high commission in country. British travellers who want a seat on the flight will book and pay directly through a dedicated travel management company.
British tourists stranded abroad who want to return to the UK should first check if there are commercial routes available by visiting the airline websites, FCO travel advice pages for the country they are in and local British embassy social media.
If there are no commercial options, they should visit the travel advice pages and sign up to alerts for their location and follow embassy social media and email updates. When special return flights become available, these will be advertised by the embassy and British nationals on Travel Advice Pages and Embassy social media and those who have registered for updates will be contacted via email. British nationals will be asked to register their interest through our booking agents CTM.
Where people are in real need, consular teams will work with them to consider their options. As a last resort, the Foreign Office will offer an emergency loan.