The UK’s two largest package holiday operators have gone in different directions in response to the government’s decision to revoke the UK’s travel corridor with Spain at the weekend with just a few hours notice.
Shortly before 7pm on Saturday (25 July), the Department for Transport announced that from midnight the same day, those returning from Spain – including the Balearic and Canary islands – would once again have to self-isolate for 14 days upon arrival back in the UK.
The Foreign Office also updated its travel advice to advise against all but essential travel to mainland Spain.
However, it did not advise against all non-essential travel to the Balearics or the Canaries owing to the lower rate of coronavirus infection across the two sets of islands.
In response to the update, Tui has cancelled all of its holidays to mainland Spain until 9 August. It will, however, continue to operate to both the Balearics and the Canaries so any customers due to travel to the islands who will not be affected by having to quarantine for a fortnight, or can accommodate the change, will still be able to travel.
All Tui customers whose travel is affected by the change in government advice can amend their holidays, or cancel in exchange for a full refund.
Andrew Flintham, Tui managing director UK and Ireland, said it was "incredibly disappointing" the sector didn’t get more notice of the announcement, and that it was made after the customary getaway on Saturdays, meaning many Brits would have only just arrived in-destination when they found out they would have to quarantine upon their return.
Flintham added the discrepancy between the FCO advice for mainland Spain and the Balearics and the Canaries demonstrated the need for "regional travel corridors". He also said while heath and safety was always Tui’s highest priority, the government must work more closely with the travel sector.
"This level of uncertainty and confusion is damaging for business and disappointing for those looking forward to a well-deserved break," Flintham added.
Tui confirmed in a statement all holidays to mainland Spain, up to and including those due to depart on 9 August, have been cancelled.
“Customers due to travel to all areas of Spain between 27 July and 9 August will be able to cancel or amend [their] holidays and will be able to receive a full refund or the option to rebook their holiday with a booking incentive," said the operator.
On the Balearics and the Canaries, Tui said: “We know how much our customers look forward to their holiday abroad, and some will be able to accommodate the new quarantine restrictions, therefore all those that wish to travel to the Balearic Islands and Canary Islands will be able to travel as planned from Monday 27 July."
Any Tui customers due to travel from 10 August onwards will be updated on the status of their holidays by 31 July. Any customers already on holiday with Tui will be able to return on their intended flight home.
Jet2holidays, meanwhile, has decided instead to continue operations in spite of both the return quarantine requirement, and the FCO advising against all but essential travel to mainland Spain.
A spokesperson said customers have been advised to arrive for their flights as normal, with the operator "continuing to operate" its scheduled programme to and from mainland Spain, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands.
Jet2.com and Jet2holidays will operate to four destinations in mainland Spain – Costa de Almeria, Alicante, Malaga and Murcia – stating they are "open and located away from areas which have been impacted by increased cases of Covid-19".
However, the firm said it was in the process of reviewing options for customers due to travel to all four destinations "in light of the updated advice" from the FCO.
"We are providing customers travelling to these four destinations with a number of options including continuing with their travel as planned, a refund credit note, a fee free amendment, or a refund," the spokesperson added.
"We are also continuing to operate flights and holidays to our destinations in the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands as scheduled. Because the FCO travel advice to these destinations remains unchanged, our usual terms and conditions apply. As always, we advise customers to purchase appropriate travel insurance before travelling.
"This is a fast-moving situation, which we are continuing to monitor very closely."