Coronavirus pandemic: Travel chaos gives passengers headaches at summer’s end – travel

A heap of new travel restrictions has thrown Europe’s long-anticipated August break into disarray, dealing a setback to airlines and leaving some passengers on the hook for the cost of last-minute changes.

In the U.K., quarantine measures have been reimposed on Spain, France, Malta and the Netherlands. With infection rates rising, Croatia could be next, creating another headache for would-be travelers who are running out of time as schools reopen.

Ryanair Holdings Plc, Europe’s biggest discount carrier, has cut back on schedules, saying the uncertainty has discouraged people from booking foreign trips. Deutsche Lufthansa AG’s Eurowings unit said Tuesday it’ll reduce capacity to Spain, in response to a German travel warning.

“Airlines are stuck in an awkward place where there’s no visibility beyond two weeks, and they’re having to ramp down and ramp up and then ramp down again, at short notice,” said Mark Manduca, an analyst with Citigroup. “Every airline is adapting as best they think they can.”

An industry proposal to move the U.K. away from country-based quarantines is gaining momentum. The government is working on ramping up Covid-19 testing at airports, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said Wednesday, a measure that could be used to ease the burden on travelers to self-isolate after arriving from overseas.

The heads of airlines including British Airways, Ryanair, EasyJet Plc and Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. pressed their case this week in a letter to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, asking for the quarantine to be replaced by tests for arrivals from high-risk countries because it’s killing demand from big markets like the U.S. Shapps is due to meet with ministers on Monday to discuss the alternatives, The Daily Telegraph newspaper reported.

Airline shares rose. British Airways parent IAG SA gained as much as 4.7%, while EasyJet and Dublin-based Ryanair advanced as much as 3.2% and 1.3%, respectively.

Securing Refund

For those who already have tickets, changing plans has become a minefield of terms and conditions that vary by carrier.

While customers are entitled to a refund when an airline cancels a flight, they typically have to work hard to get it, such as calling a busy customer-service desk. Carriers are also offering vouchers or rescheduling for free, and making it easier to select these options.

When a flight is still operating but now subject to quarantine, the guidelines are murky. Airlines aren’t obliged to pay cash refunds and generally are refusing to do so on upcoming trips, say, from the the U.K. to France.

It’s left some travelers with the choice of staying home and shouldering the ticket cost, paying expensive fees to change dates and destinations, or chancing the journey and a potential quarantine on return. Schools have already opened in the U.K., leaving families with fewer options.

Airlines are ignoring regulators’ warnings and refusing to offer refunds to affected countries, said Rory Boland, travel editor at Which?, an independent U.K. consumer-advice service. He called for reforms to strengthen the U.K. Civil Aviation Authority.

“Passengers will not easily forget how they have been treated through this period,” Boland said. “The impact on trust in the travel industry has been devastating.”

(This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.)

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