Brits abroad as holidaymakers celebrate boarding first flight from UK to Spain

We’re all off to sunny Spain once again after the Covid-19 travel ban was lifted.

And the Daily Mirror was on board the first plane out of the UK heading to the Costas today.

Excited sun-seekers and expats joined the early morning flight from Manchester to Alicante.

Colleen Pitchford, 74, who retired and moved to Mazarron, Murcia, seven years ago, had flown back to the UK in early March to watch her beloved Liverpool play Atletico Madrid in the Champions League.

But five days later Spain was in lockdown and she could not return.



Colleen Pitchford waiting to pass through Alicante Airport after boarding the first quarantine-free holiday flight to Spain
Colleen Pitchford waiting to pass through Alicante Airport after boarding the first quarantine-free holiday flight to Spain

After more than three months away, she was in tears as she landed at Alicante.

She said: “I got the first available flight. I could not wait to get back home. I’m looking forward to having lunch later with a friend and a large glass of white wine in the sun.”

Regan Hall, 22, from Oldham, was planning an extended holiday.

“I’ve got a lot of mates who live in Spain and I’m looking forward to having a pint in a pub. Honestly I can’t wait” he said.

Spain only opened its borders to Brits on Saturday night.



Daily Mirror's Paul Byrne on board the first quarantine-free holiday flight to Spain
Daily Mirror’s Paul Byrne on board the first quarantine-free holiday flight to Spain

But most passengers had booked their tickets days earlier, despite fears they would be turned back.

Danny Fitton, 22, from Accrington, Lancs, who is having a four day mini-break, said: “I was confident we would be Ok. You have to be prepared to take a risk.”

And Ange Gingell, 57, from Preston, said: “I booked as soon as the flight came available.

“I live by myself and lockdown has been quite stressful so I wanted to get away as soon as I could.”

Their arrival was toasted by the country’s bar, restaurant and hotel owners who are desperate to see Brits back on the beaches.



Benidorm is welcoming Brits back to its beaches
Benidorm is welcoming Brits back to its beaches

More than 18million tourists flock from the UK to Spain each year – almost a quarter of its global visitor numbers.

And we spend more than £8billion a year, double our expenditure in France, with each of us handing over an average of £122 a day during our hols.

But travelling abroad will be very different post-Covid, as the Mirror discovered when we boarded the 6.30am Ryanair flight from Manchester to Alicante.

Manchester, the third busiest airport in the UK, handling more than 29million passengers a year, was eerily quiet, with more staff than passengers.

All the bars, cafes and restaurants were closed and only one shop, Boots, was planning to open in Terminal 1.



David Dennis, the owner of the London Bar in Benidorm, on the Spanish coast, with his son Jamie and his partner Sam Thomson
David Dennis, the owner of the London Bar in Benidorm, on the Spanish coast, with his son Jamie and his partner Sam Thomson

The airport has imposed a strict face mask policy for all passengers and staff and hand sanitisers were placed throughout the terminal, although the ones we tried were empty and did not appear to have been filled.

Regular tannoy announcements reminded passengers to respect social distancing guidelines and to keep their face covered.

Throughout the two hour and twenty minute flight, all passengers and cabin crew wore masks and anyone needing the toilet had to summon a steward to be escorted to the loo, to stop people queuing in the aisle.

At Alicante airport strict social distancing measures were in place as passports were checked.

Anyone who let their face mask slip down was ordered to wear it correctly and rows of thermal cameras were trained on passengers to check for high temperatures.



Cheryl Oddie and Patrick Radgers enjoying a proper Sunday lunch at the London Bar in Benidorm
Cheryl Oddie and Patrick Radgers enjoying a proper Sunday lunch at the London Bar in Benidorm

In nearby Benidorm the start of the British invasion was greeted with delight by bar owners and expats alike.

Terry Rafferty, 81, from Merseyside, who arrived in the town two days before the lockdown, intending to stay for the summer, said: “Everything was closed but a couple of weeks ago the pubs started slowly reopening and the more people who come the better it will be.”

Patrick Radgers, 73, who has lived in the town for the past four years, said: “Benidorm is built on the British tourist trade. It desperately needs the Brits to return in numbers.”

But his friend Cheryl Oddie, 73, is worried holidaymakers will ignore the country’s strict anti-virus precautions and cause a second wave of infection.



Beaches will be sectioned off to keep people safe
Beaches will be sectioned off to keep people safe

“They will have to realise you have to wear a mask here. It is the law” she said.

In Spain face masks are compulsory on public transport and in shops and also on the street when social distancing of five feet cannot be guaranteed.

Many regions are imposing their own virus prevention measures, including restricting numbers in swimming pools and closing children’s play areas.

In Benidorm the beach has been roped off and divided into individual sun-bathing parcels to ensure social distancing.

And the vulnerable over 70s will have their own section of the golden sands.

Lloret de Mar, will have three different beach areas for OAPs, families and adults without children.



Lloret de Mar will be welcoming tourists again
Lloret de Mar will be welcoming tourists again

In Fuengirola a one-way system is in operation on the promenade and ball games have been banned.

And the Balearic Islands’ government is stopping nightspots which normally cater for 300 people from opening and may impose time limits on beach sunbathing.

But David Dennis, 40, owner of The London Bar in Benidorm, said the country is open for business and will welcome tourists with open arms.

“The Brits come here to spend their money and enjoy it as much as they can. The town needs them” he said.

Ryanair is providing flights to mainland Spain and its islands this week, with Easyjet due to follow suit from July 1.



Police seen enforcing Fuengirola beaches
Police seen enforcing Fuengirola beaches

And “air bridges” would need to be created enabling people to travel between the UK and certain countries without needing to go into self-isolation for 14 days on their return. Jet2holidays plans to resume its programme on July 15.

The director of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Professor Peter Piot, has blasted the 14-day quarantine as “completely useless”.

He told BBC1’s The Andrew Marr Show: “That only would have made sense at the very beginning before there were cases.

“Today that is not going to contribute much and the damage it causes to the country, to the economy is going to be enormous.

“Let’s hope that rule is dropped as soon as possible and let’s concentrate on what works.”

The government is in talks with up to ten countries for ‘air bridges’, which would allow Britons to travel abroad without being subject to the controversial 14-day quarantine when they return.

A scheme to test arrivals at airports for the virus is also being piloted, which could also help end blanket restrictions.

But anyone planning to book a trip is advised to check their travel insurance.

Britons are still being warned against non-essential travel, which includes holidays, and no insurer will provide cover if the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) is advising against travel to your destination.

source.



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