What is an air bridge?
An air bridge, or travel corridor, is a reciprocal agreement between two countries that allows tourists to travel without restrictions. It would mean that UK holidaymakers could visit countries with low coronavirus infection rates without having to quarantine for 14 days when they return – and people in those countries can travel to the UK without having to quarantine on entry.
What countries will the UK have air bridges with?
The first air bridges are likely to be with popular European destinations including France, Spain, Italy, Germany and Greece. Portugal is uncertain, as there has been a spike in infection rates, and other notable omissions may be Croatia, Malta and Turkey. The second set of air bridges is thought to include Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland and Norway, plus some Caribbean islands. There are also reports of a long-haul air bridge with Australia. There are no plans for an air bridge with the US at this stage.
When will this come into effect?
The policy has not yet been officially announced; it is expected that travel corridors will be set up on 28 or 29 June, with the first air bridges coming into effect on 4 July.
What about Foreign Office advice?
The Foreign Office is still warning against all but essential overseas travel, but this is expected to be lifted in the coming days.
Is demand high or are people being cautious?
Sean Tipton of Abta, a UK travel trade association, says: “It’s a very mixed picture – some people are desperate to get on the first plane out of here, others won’t feel comfortable travelling yet. Overall, demand will probably be lower than usual for this time of year, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing – it will make social distancing easier.” Paul Charles, a travel PR specialist who has been urging the government to outline its air bridge plans, says: “There is a lot of pent-up demand, but the level depends on the type of holiday. Villa bookings are through the roof because people want space and privacy, while hotels and packages will be slower this summer.” Sunvil, a company specialising in holidays to Greece, has noticed a modest rise in bookings over the past week and expects to be operating at about 25% capacity.
Are holidays likely to be more expensive?
No. As demand is likely to be down, prices are unlikely to shoot up. In fact, large operators such as Tui and Jet2 are expected to offer big discounts. However, prices will probably rise modestly after the official announcement of the air bridges. Charles says: “There are great deals for early birds who are booking now. Next week, prices will go up fast.”
Will there be enough flights to cope with demand?
Yes. Flight capacity is thought to be about 30% lower than last summer, but fewer people will be flying. Airlines will reinstate flights as and when they are needed. There will be temperature checks at airports and mandatory masks on planes.
Will popular resorts be really busy?
Unlikely. Many people will still be wary of travelling to tourist hotspots. Tipton says: “There won’t be the same kinds of crowds, so it could be the ideal time to go to places such as Venice.” Noel Josephides, the chairman of Sunvil, says he expects a holiday to Greece to be “like it was 30 years ago. Now is a good time to go: it will be as quiet as spring, but with summer weather and warmer seas.”
Will I be able to get travel insurance?
Yes, unless the Foreign Office is advising against travel to that destination. Several insurers now have policies that cover travellers if they get coronavirus while overseas, and a handful now cover Covid-19-related cancellations. More are expected to follow.
What will happen if I show symptoms of coronavirus when I’m on holiday?
It goes without saying that holidaymakers must abide by local guidelines and maintain social distancing and hand hygiene. If you do show symptoms, even if your insurance doesn’t cover treatment, the European Health Insurance Card (Ehic) is valid until the end of the year. That means UK travellers to an EU country can receive emergency or necessary medical care for the same cost as a resident (usually free).