TUI and Jet2 have cancelled holidays to the Greek islands of Crete, Santorini, Zakynthos and Mykonos due to the new quarantine rules.
From 4am on Wednesday travellers arriving in England from Lesbos, Tinos, Serifos, Mykonos, Crete, Santorini or Zakynthos (also known as Zante) must self-isolate for 14 days.
This is part of the Government’s new regional approach to quarantine policy.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that, should infection rates differ from their mainland countries, islands can be added to or removed from the quarantine-exemption list.
The UK’s biggest operator TUI has scrapped holidays to Crete, Santorini, Zakynthos and Mykonos while Jet2 has axed holidays to Crete up to and including September 20.
TUI appeared to hit out at the government’s short notice about the changes in their statement.
A TUI spokesperson said: “We welcome the announcement on regional corridors to Islands and believe it’s a positive step forward for the travel industry and for our customers, who we know still wish to travel.
“This is exactly the nuanced and pragmatic approach that we’ve been calling for.
“However, with little notice we have had to cancel holidays to Crete, Santorini, Zakynthos and Mykonos just hours before customers are due to travel due to the change in travel advice.
“Any customers due to travel to these four islands before Tuesday 22 September will be able to amend for free to another holiday on sale, or request a full cash refund.
“We now urgently need to hear more about how the Government will implement a robust regime of airport testing to reduce down the need to quarantine for 14 days, as this remains a barrier for some to travel.”
A spokesperson for Jet2 said: “Due to the latest government travel advice, we have taken the decision to suspend holidays to Crete up to and including 20th September. We will be in touch with affected customers to discuss options to rebook or receive a credit note/ cash refund.”
Mr Shapps said new data collected by the Joint Biosecurity Centre is detailed enough to make different assessments of different regions.
He said regional changes to quarantine policy would not be practical, because it’s impossible to tell if someone has moved around the country.
But they will be introduced on areas with a natural border – such as an island which has direct flight routes to England.
Mr Shapps told MPs the data showing infections within countries is “too patchy” to have regional quarantine arrangements at the moment.
He told the Commons: “In many cases, the international data is still simply too patchy and, in all cases, there is next to nothing to prevent people from moving around within a country’s border.”
Mr Shapps said that travelling during coronavirus “is not without risk” and warned holidaymakers to travel with their “eyes open”.
The Transport Secretary added that “quarantine combined with testing is more promising”.
He told MPs: “We are working actively on the practicalities of using testing to release people from quarantine earlier than 14 days.
“For the reasons described, this could not be a pure test-on-arrival option, it would not work, but my officials are working with health experts with the aim of cutting the quarantine period without adding to infection risk or infringing our overall NHS test capacity – which also now needs to cater to schools going back and universities returning.
“The islands policy itself becomes actively immediately and I will, of course, update the House on quarantine testing in the coming weeks.”
At the same time, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) has updated its travel advice for Greece advise against all but essential travel to Lesvos, Tinos, Serifos, Mykonos, Crete, Santorini and Zakynthos.
Mr Shapps said: “Our top priority has always been to keep domestic infection rates down, and today we’re taking the next step in our approach. Through the use of enhanced data we will now be able to pinpoint risk in some of the most popular islands, providing increased flexibility to add or remove them – distinct from the mainland – as infection rates change.
“This development will help boost the UK’s travel industry while continuing to maintain maximum protection to public health, keeping the travelling public safe.”