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UK travel ban: Can you travel abroad or go on a UK holiday during the four-week lockdown?

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UK travel ban: Can you travel abroad or go on a UK holiday during the four-week lockdown?

November is normally the ideal month to plan an escape from Britain. As autumn turns to winter and the skies darken, the travel industry obliges anyone who is able to take a holiday with low prices and ready availability.

Not this year. The government says: “Avoid all non-essential travel by private or public transport.”

"Overnight stays and holidays away from primary residences will not be allowed – including holidays in the UK and abroad.

"This includes staying in a second home, if you own one, or staying with anyone you do not live with or are in a support bubble with.

“There are specific exceptions, for example if you need to stay away from home (including in a second home) for work purposes.”

There is no impact on inbound international travel, though of course existing quarantine rules apply.

These are the key questions and answers based on what we know so far.

I am abroad at the moment. Must I come home?

No, your trip should continue as normal. Assuming you are returning to the UK during lockdown, there is a good chance that your flight will operate as normal.

However, the ban on outbound international travel means that airlines and holiday companies are likely to cut back services to reduced their losses.

Johan Lundgren, chief executive of easyJet, said: "Following the government’s sudden announcement today, easyJet will operate its planned schedule until Thursday and will be reviewing its flying programme over the lockdown period.

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"It is likely that much of the UK touching schedule [ie flights to, from and within the UK] will be cancelled during lockdown with our planned flying set to resume in early December.

“We will advise customers who are booked to travel over the next month of their options with a view to assisting customers to return to the country in the coming days."

A spokesperson for British Airways said: "We note the prime minister's announcement of a new national lockdown for England to slow the spread of Covid-19.

“Like other businesses, we are assessing the new information and we will keep our customers updated on any changes to their travel plans.”

Under European air passengers’ rights rules, you are entitled to an alternative flight home – though given the extreme circumstances it may involve changing your trip by a day or two either way.

I have an overseas holiday booked to leave before Thursday. Am I still able to fly out – and what happens when I come home?

You should be able to travel as planned. The ban on holidays begins on Thursday 5 November. Trips before that should be unaffected; easyJet has confirmed it will operate its schedules as planned up to an including Wednesday.

But as indicated above, there is a significant chance that your homeward trip may be affected, assuming you are returning to the UK during lockdown.

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After the Canary Islands were put on the “OK” list I booked a trip in November. Will it go ahead?

According to the government, no. You and thousands of other people are in an awful position. The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, opened up the Canaries for travel a week ago.

According to easyJet’s Johan Lundgren, “Bookings went through the roof”. Many of those trips are for November, with many people desperate for a break.

Those trips are now off. To travel on holiday anywhere abroad before early December will break the lockdown rules, and therefore you cannot go.

What are my rights if I cannot travel?

That depends on how you booked the trip, and the attitude of the travel provider.

The simplest case is if you booked a package holiday with one of the two giant companies, Jet2 Holidays or Tui. They will not take holidaymakers abroad against government instructions. You will be entitled to a full refund within two weeks.

If you have booked flights separately, then your rights depend on whether the flight actually goes ahead. Many flights are likely to be due to a near-complete collapse in bookings. Under European air passengers’ rights rules you are then entitled to all your money back within a week.

However, some flights will continue. British Airways, easyJet, Ryanair and other carriers have planned to operate up to 30 per cent of their schedules in November, and many of those departures will continue – not least because there are British travellers across Europe who are expecting to be brought home at the end of their holidays.

If both legs of the trip are operating, then you have no legal entitlement to a refund. However, British Airways and easyJet are likely to provide vouchers if you are unable to travel. Ryanair and Wizz Air may not.

If I stand to lose money – either on an air ticket, or an accommodation booking – can I claim on travel insurance?

Probably not, though if the insurance policy was taken out before mid-March 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic became a “known event,” then you may possible be able to claim for losses unrecoverable elsewhere.

What will this do for the travel industry – and people who work in it?

The international travel ban will cause thousands more job losses, very sadly, and finish off some great holiday companies. There could also be casualties among airlines and possibly even UK airports.

Mark Tanzer, chief executive of Abta, the travel association, said: “Today’s announcement that holidays in the UK and abroad will not be allowed under lockdown in England will mean a complete shut down for travel businesses which have already been severely damaged by the pandemic."

Paul Charles, chief executive of the travel analysts The PC Agency, said: “The winter period is always tough for the travel sector but this is set to be ultra-cruel. I hope that Rishi Sunak recognises the extreme challenges ahead and offers support to the sector. It’s going to need it.

"Job losses and company casualties are going to be widespread, sadly, and my fear is that lockdowns will be harder to ease than they are to switch on.”

Rory Boland, travel editor for Which?, said: "Many will go bust. Others will again withhold customer money to bail themselves out.”

Are UK holidays all off?

Yes. The government says: “Those currently on a domestic holiday will be allowed to finish their holidays.”

But holidays must not begin between 5 November and 2 December.

Customers are likely to be entitled to their money back. The Competition and Markets Authority says: "A consumer will generally be entitled to a refund when they have paid money in advance for services or goods that cannot be provided because of the coronavirus pandemic.”

However, this may not apply to agreements reached where the provider has specified that, in the event of government action related to coronavirus, they will offer a credit note or postponement rather than a cash refund.

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