Travel news – live: New PCR testing rules begin as red list countries protest travel bans

A set of new, more onerous travel rules for UK travellers and visitors are set to make holidays more complex this festive season.

From today, vaccinated travellers wishing to enter the country must take a pre-departure test and present a negative result, as well as taking a PCR test – rather than a previously permitted lateral flow – within two days of arrival. They must also self-isolate until a negative result is returned.

The addition of a pre-departure test for double-jabbed passengers will apply to those aged 12 and over, travelling to the UK from any foreign country except Ireland and Ethiopia.

During the past two weeks, the government also added 11 countries to the formerly emptied red list, including South Africa, Botswana and, most recently, Nigeria.

Leaders and officials in red-listed countries expressed outrage at the “selective” listing of southern African countries, when omicron is now present in dozens of countries around the world.

Yesterday Nigeria’s high commissioner Sarafa Tunji Isola described the travel bans, by countries including the UK and US, as travel “apartheid”.

Follow all the latest travel updates below:


Travel companies urged to write to MPs to demand axing of hotel quarantine

Travel companies are being urged to write to MPs to demand the hotel quarantine restrictions for red list countries be dropped.

The Latin American Travel Association (LATA) has asked its members to contact politicians to “highlight the inherent problems in the current red list strategy”, and to request they review the government’s approach as soon as possible.

Danny Callaghan, CEO of LATA, says: “The emergence of the omicron variant has demonstrated how quickly a situation can develop and how the consequences for consumers can be significant and, ultimately, put people off travelling.

“To be able to go on holiday to a country and then, out of the blue, to be faced with a multi-thousand-pound bill for hotel quarantine cannot be the right way to manage these issues. I would like to understand why, if I were to test positive for the omicron variant today, I am able to quarantine at home, but a person arriving from a red list country is not trusted to do the same. Imagine if the government went around collecting omicron-positive people from their homes, dragging them off to some shabby hotel for 10 days, and then charging over two thousand pounds for the privilege – there’d be uproar. Yet returning Brits are expected to do just that.”

Mr Callaghan called for a “sensible approach”, such as a home quarantine model for returning travellers.

LATA has provided its members with a template letter to share with their MPs.

Helen Coffey7 December 2021 16:09


Banning travel from entire countries doesn’t make sense, says travel council

The tighter testing restrictions for inbound travellers to the UK should mean blanket travel bans for entire countries are no longer needed, the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has said.

Julia Simpson, WTTC president and CEO said: “If the government insists on testing individuals two days before arrival in the UK, it makes no sense to ban entry from whole countries. The World Health Organisation has said closing frontiers does not stop the virus, but it does cause real economic harm.

“The cost of reimposing restrictions will cost the UK £5.3bn and 180,000 people across the UK Travel and Tourism sector could lose their jobs.

“With so much at stake, we can’t afford to waste three weeks waiting for another government update. We know international travel can continue safely without any more cumbersome and destructive measures.

“The government needs to act fast.”

Helen Coffey7 December 2021 14:50


BA axes 2,000 flights between now and March

British Airways has axed more than 2,000 flights from now until the end of March in response to the pandemic, according to new research.

Between 26 November and 3 December, the British flag carrier chopped a total 2,144 services from its schedule over the next four months.

January 2022 was the worst-hit month, according to data released by aviation analytics experts Cirium, with 1,146 flights cut compared to the previous schedule.

Helen Coffey7 December 2021 13:52


Lumo increases trains on East Coast main line

Lumo, the new “open access” train operator between Edinburgh and London, is stepping up services in a week’s time ahead of the Christmas rush.

From 14 December a new early morning southbound departure will leave the Scottish capital at 6.14am between Tuesday and Friday. It will also offer a non-stop trip from Newcastle at 7.57am, arriving at London King’s Cross at 10.50am.

The one-way fare for the first day from Edinburgh to London is currently £24.90. Lumo’s big rival, LNER, has a train that gets in 70 minutes earlier – but it is six times more expensive.

The return Lumo train leaves London at 12.18pm, arriving in Newcastle exactly three hours later and reaching Edinburgh at 4.41pm.

The new pattern of two trains each way from Saturday to Monday and three each way from Tuesday to Friday will continue to the end of the year.

Early in 2022 the frequency should increase to five per day in each direction.

No trains will run on 25 and 26 December.

(Simon Calder)

Simon Calder7 December 2021 13:19


Government restrictions bigger obstacle to travel than omicron fears

The rise of the omicron variant has had virtually no impact on holidaymakers’ travel plans but newly introduced government restrictions and red tape are putting Brits off going abroad, according to new research.

Travel specialist Holiday Extras has been running regular polls with UK holidaymakers about their travel plans for 2022.

When comparing its latest results to those from September, the company found that the presence of the new variant doesn’t seem to have dampened travellers’ enthusiasm for going abroad – in September, 92 per cent of people that had flown since 2019 said that they had plans to travel abroad in 2022, while in December this number was 90 per cent.

When asked what would deter them from international travel this year or next, the return of the unpredictability and onerous admin and testing requirements came out on top, increasing by almost 10 per cent when compared to the same poll in the summer. It is now the single biggest block for holidaymakers, according to the survey.

Despite the new variant, people are now even less concerned about catching Covid when on holiday (20 per cent compared to 29 per cent in July).

Helen Coffey7 December 2021 12:44


Passengers denied boarding in Canada due to travel test confusion

Confusion over the UK’s new testing rules has left dozens of passengers stranded in Canada, after they were denied boarding on the first flights back to the UK this morning.

In a Twitter thread, UK travel journalist Connor McGovern wrote that he and dozens of other Air Canada and British Airways passengers were left in Vancouver on Monday evening due to two different interpretations of advice published by the British government.

The UK’s new testing rules state that from 4am today, 7 December, onwards all passengers arriving into the UK must have a negative result from a pre-departure test taken within the two days before departure.

However, airlines at Vancouver airport were reportedly told that the rule applied to all flights that would arrive after 4am on 7 December, while passengers had understood this to mean flights departing after that time and date.

Lucy Thackray7 December 2021 12:04


‘Chaotic’ scenes as passengers left behind in St Lucia

Passengers getting off the first flight to arrive in the UK after the travel rules change have described “chaotic” scenes at St Lucia’s airport before their departure, as some travellers were left behind.

First off the plane was Lysa Hardy, a marketing director from Hertfordshire.

“Obviously we found out when we were out there we had to do this new testing,” she told The Independent.

“I was fortunate – my hotel organised that for me.

“But when we got to the airport there was quite a lot of confusion about what we were supposed to show.

“I had paperwork so I was fine but then we got on the plane and about 30 people hadn’t got the documentation and couldn’t get on the plane.”

Simon Calder7 December 2021 11:05


Flight cancellations and diversions as Storm Barra hits

Storm Barra has caused cancellations and at least one diversion at Dublin airport.

Delta Airlines flight 44 from New York JFK is on its way to Amsterdam after abandoning two attempts at landing at the Irish capital’s airport.

United Airlines cancelled its flight from New York (Newark) to Dublin, as did Air France from Paris and Lufthansa from Munich.

Corresponding departures are also cancelled, and there is uncertainty about when Delta passengers booked on the return leg to New York might travel. But the 10.30am Jet2 flight to “North Pole” is still shown as leaving on schedule.

Simon Calder7 December 2021 10:24


New rules turmoil: Simon Calder hosts ‘ask me anything’ Q&A

This week feels somewhat like going back in time when it comes to travel testing in the UK; not only have post-arrival “day two” tests been swapped from lateral flows back to PCRs, but pre-departure tests have returned for vaccinated travellers.

Meanwhile, more countries are being added to the red list on a semi-regular basis: Nigeria is the latest victim, and arrivals from there must henceforth pay to spent 11 nights in a designated quarantine hotel.

Our expert Simon Calder will be on hand to answer all your latest travel questions in an ‘Ask me anything’ later today (Tuesday, 7 December). He will be answering live in the comments section below between 4pm and 5pm.

Comment under the below article with your question to get Simon’s expert steer:

Lucy Thackray7 December 2021 09:54


Hong Kong pilots stuck in ‘perpetual state of quarantine’

Pilots flying into Hong Kong have claimed they are stuck “in a perpetual state of quarantine.“

The city has some of the toughest restrictions for inbound travellers – including those flying the planes.

One pilot with Cathay Pacific, the Hong Kong flag carrier, reported spending 150 days so far this year in isolation.

“It’s almost a certainty that I’ll be resigning in the spring… I’m leaving without an actual job and just resigning,” another Cathay pilot told the BBC.

“I would say, probably, 80 per cent of those that I fly with are actively looking for work elsewhere. It’s all we talk about.”

Helen Coffey7 December 2021 09:19


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