Coronavirus travel chaos has erupted after USA President Donald Trump announced today the Europe travel ban is to extend to the UK and Ireland. The ban has been implemented on the advice of health officials and will be put in place from midnight eastern time on Monday. Vice President of the United States Mike Pence said: “In our taskforce meeting today the president has made a decision to suspend all travel to the UK and Ireland, effective midnight Monday night, eastern standard time.”
Travellers are urged to speak with their travel provider in light of coronavirus developments.
UK travel trade association ABTA said in a statement today: “The evolving coronavirus situation is extraordinary and the Foreign & Commonwealth (FCO) advice in relation to specific destinations is changing rapidly, so it is very important that anyone due to travel imminently checks the FCO advice for their specific destination and liaises with their travel provider.
“Travel companies are working around the clock to support customers, their decisions will be guided by the operational situation and Government advice.
“Given the extraordinary volume of enquiries, and the rapidly changing situation, the best course of action for travellers with future bookings is to monitor and follow FCO advice for the destination they are travelling to, and wait for their travel provider to contact them if the situation changes in regards to their booking.
“Many travel companies are doing all they can to offer flexible booking policies at this time, such as giving customers the option to change their departure dates without charge, so we’d recommend talking to them about the options that are open to you.”
As for those with flights booked, many airlines are allowing passengers to change their flights for free or apply for a refund.
Concerning USA flights, British Airways has explained the following on its website:
“If you are halfway through your journey and would like to return home earlier than planned, please call the contact centre and we’ll book you onto the next available flight. We know our lines are busy, however we’ve brought in extra teams to help so please bear with us.
“If you are due to travel before 1 August, and have not yet started your journey and would like to change the date or cancel your trip, you can opt to travel on a different date, or choose to cancel your journey and receive a voucher for the value of your ticket.”
BA also said: “These are unprecedented times for our industry, our country and the world. Please be assured that our expert teams are working closely with the UK Government and health organisations around the world to ensure we’re following the very latest advice. We’ll do everything we can to help customers affected.
As for fee waivers, the airline said: “We fully understand that many of our customers want to change their travel plans given the evolving situation, so we have put a number of measures in place so that you can book with confidence with British Airways.
“To allow greater flexibility, we are enabling customers to change their destination, date of travel, or both for free, on all new bookings made from Tuesday 3 March to Sunday 31 May 2020, as well as any existing bookings that depart up to Sunday 31 May 2020.”
Following Trump’s announced ban, Virgin is “evaluating” what this means for customers and said their schedule “remains as published on our website.”
A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “We continue to monitor the Covid-19 situation very carefully, including the latest guidance from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), as well as any new entry or quarantine restrictions implemented by the countries we fly to.
“We are aware of reports that a travel advisory is expected to be issued by the US government stating that from 17th March they will deny entry to UK nationals.
“We are currently evaluating what this means for our customers and flying programme. At present, our schedule remains as published on our website.
“We’d like to apologise for any inconvenience caused and any customers booked to travel should visit www.virginatlantic.com for the latest information or contact our Virgin Atlantic customer care team via our SMS messaging system +44(0) 7481 339184 to discuss their options. As we deal with the high demand of enquiries we ask customers to only get in touch if they’re travelling in the next 72 hours.”
Virgin has introduced a flexible no change fees policy.
For bookings made before 12 March, for travel between 1 March and 31 May 2020. Travel can be rebooked between 13 March 2020 and 31 December 2020.
For bookings made between 4 March and 31 March, travel can be rebooked between 4 March 2020 and 31 December 2020.
“This means that if your plans do need to change, you can switch your flight to an alternative date with no penalty,” said Virgin. “Rebooked flights will be subject to availability and any difference in fare.
“You can also choose to re-route on a Virgin Atlantic or Virgin Atlantic Codeshare flight to or from your original destination or rebook to or from another destination. Travel must be completed on or before 31 December 2020.
“This policy applies to all booking classes (including Economy Light) on all routes in Virgin Atlantic’s international network, and for tickets booked with us on our transatlantic codeshare flights with Delta, Air France and KLM. Your flight number will begin with the letters “VS”. It also includes Flying Club redemption bookings.”
American is “evaluating its current scheduled service to the United Kingdom and Ireland,” following Trump’s ban, the airline said today.
“American has not yet made any additional adjustments to its schedule at this time. American previously announced a schedule reduction to London on March 12, 2020,” said the carrier in a statement online.
“American continues to work closely with U.S. authorities to comply with these new orders while treating all of our customers with respect. American is committed to taking care of any affected customers by assisting them with rebooking options. Our team is proactively reaching out to customers who may be affected by these travel restrictions to ensure they are accommodated.”
The change fee for American Airlines is waived if you booked an American Airlines flight on or before March 11, 2020 and you are scheduled to travel March 11 – May 31, 2020.
You will need to be able to travel between travel March 11 and December 31, 2020 or within one year of the date the ticket was issued.
“Keep in mind, you may owe any difference in ticket price when you rebook your trip,” said American Airlines.
“You’re allowed to make changes to your trip once. You can change it now, or cancel and rebook later.”
The carrier added: “Travel must start by December 31, 2020 or within 1 year of date the ticket was issued.
“The change fee will be waived but you may still owe any difference in ticket price when you rebook your trip.”