There has been shock and dismay among customers and the travel trade after the government announced it was removing Turkey from its travel corridor list.
Anyone returning to the UK from Turkey after 4am on Saturday 3 October must self-isolate after the government updated its quarantine list. As of this week, isolating is a legal duty for anyone told to do so, with fines rising to £10,000 for repeat offenders.
Poland and the islands Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba were also added to the list, on Thursday.
The Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office advice was later updated to against all but essential travel for all five destinations.
Turkey’s recorded infection rate dropped this week, and many holidaymakers took to social media to say they felt safe over in the destination.
However, the Department for Transport said Turkey had not been correctly reporting its coronavirus figures.
TUI and Jet2holidays swiftly moved to cancel package holidays to Turkey.
Jet2 said package customers due to travel today should not travel to the airport, but said flight only passengers may travel as normal.
“All holidays departing Friday 2 October 2020 will automatically be cancelled with a full refund and you will be issued with a cancellation invoice,” Jet2holidays trade team said.
It added it will provide more updates on Turkey and Poland today.
TUI has told passengers due to travel up to October 3 not to go to the airport and said it would update customers due to travel from 4-15 October.
The operator said it is prioritising contacting customers due to travel in the next 48 hours.
“Customers who are currently on holiday in Turkey can continue to enjoy their holidays as planned and return on their intended flights home,” it added.
ABTA described Thursday night’s announcement as ‘a massive blow for the travel industry’.
“This coupled with popular winter-sun destinations, like the Canary Islands, still on the quarantine list only piles the pressure on a struggling sector.”
New data from ABTA shows four in five people are concerned about having to quarantine when they return from holiday to the UK and 93% are concerned about potential last-minute changes to foreign office travel advice.
Travel agent Mair Jones, Partner at Bordessa Holidays in West Wales, said the addition of Turkey to the UK’s quarantine list had ‘come out of nowhere’. “It’s a complete shock,” she said.
Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association said the latest changes to the quarantine list meant the number of holidays agents are able to sell at the moment has been ‘diminished to a point of almost zero’, while increasing workloads.
Mark Brewer, Director at independent agency Imp Travel in Lincoln, described the removal of Turkey from the travel corridor as ‘a real shame’.
“We have had clients in Turkey a couple of weeks ago who said they had a superb holiday and we also have clients there at the minute so will be on establishing what the procedure is to fly them home.
“They are due home Sunday so just outside the deadline of 4am Saturday. I am sure the FCDO don’t remove countries from the safe list just to try and further throw our industry into deeper turmoil but do so on constantly updated data and information, but it does feel like it at times!
“Turkey has really thrived being on the safe list with many passengers travelling to the country and its resorts that would not have considered it if there had been more choices.
“But having travelled and enjoyed it they would be more inclined to return in the future. This was backed up by Jet2 increasing its capacity for this year, after restarting a reduced capacity programme and next year for its Turkish routes and also extending the season for this year.”