British holidaymakers who stumped up for last-minute flights to flee Portugal in fear of a fresh quarantine have been left fuming when it wasn’t even re-introduced.
Tourists were furious after racing back to the UK to avoid having to self-isolate for 14 days – only for the government to leave the country off its official safe travel list.
Holiday plans were plunged into chaos last week when Scotland and Wales imposed quarantine rules on Greece and Portugal, but England didn’t.
One Bristol dad told of spending an eye-watering sum to cut their travel short so his daughter didn’t risk missing school as classrooms finally reopened.
John Cushing told the BBC he had spent £1,000 to leave Portugal early in anticipation it was about to be added to the UK’s red list – triple the cost of the pair’s original return tickets.
The solo dad said they had waited six months to visit his villa in the Algarve while travel was heavily restricted at the height of the pandemic.
As soon as they were allowed, he booked flights for himself and his daughter to go to the popular coastal beautyspot.
Mr Cushing said he had already paid £320 for return flights for himself and his daughter to get home to Bristol.
But with speculation Portugal could be added back to the UK’s quarantine list last week, the dad feared his daughter Georgie, 12, would end up having to isolate instead of returning to school.
He found few flights home so wound up paying £1,000 for easyJet flights home on Thursday, ahead of their planned return on Saturday – only for England to subsequently keep Portugal on the safe travel list after all.
Mr Cushing told the BBC: “My daughter was in tears yesterday at the thought of not being able to go back to school and see her friends.
“She has already missed most of year seven [at school] and I can’t let her miss the first two weeks of year eight.”
“The airlines have us over a barrel and don’t seem to have any sympathy.”
Easyjet denied that it was taking advantage of holidaymakers anxious about quarantines, telling the BBC that as with all airlines its pricing for flights is demand-led.
The family are just one of many worried holidaymakers growing increasingly frustrated with mixed messages over the UK’s safe travel list.
Some caught out by sudden changes in rules have criticised the government for how it is handling the announcement.
A Welsh dad-of-two whose family will have to quarantine for 14 days after being caught up in a rule-change during his Greece holiday has slammed the inconsistency across the UK.
The UK’s devolved governments set their own quarantine safe travel lists, and Jonathan Lake told The Sun he got caught out in the difference between rules set by Westminster and Cardiff.
The dad was furious after Wales added Greece and Portugal to its red list last week – saying he was considering returning to a hotel in Bristol instead to avoid isolating.
Mr Lake, who had been staying with his wife and two children near Chania, Crete, labelled the lack of consistent messaging across the UK an “absolute joke”.
Kelly Jones, of Birmingham, accused the Government of constantly shifting the goalposts after Portugal remained on England’s safe travel list after she spent £900 moving her flights.
She told The Sun of paying Jet2 to move her flights home from Faro from Saturday to Friday, cutting her villa holiday one day short in fears quarantine would be reimposed and her children could miss two weeks of school.
But she was left dismayed after Portugal and Greece remained on the safe travel list, saying she felt she had wasted time and money.
The travel anxiety comes as UK leaders grapple with concerns about fresh coronavirus clusters linked to summer holiday travels.
Travellers returning from the Greek island of Zante have been linked to a number of outbreaks in England and Wales.
Holidaymakers returning to England from seven Greek islands must quarantine from Wednesday, the government announced yesterday.
The decision was a milestone in the handling of the safe travel list, as Ministers outlined plans to allow some island destinations to have different quarantine rules from the mainland.
Destinations popular with Brits such as the Canary Islands had pleaded with the UK to handle islands separately, as mainland Spain faced skyrocketing cases but much of the archipelago regained control of outbreaks.