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:
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
48 hours or more? Confusion over testing window
Many travellers have reported confusion over the timing of pre-departure tests before travel to the UK, which are required once again from today.
The new rules state that the test must be taken on the day of departure, or one of the two preceding days. The “48-hour” rule mentioned by the health secretary, Sajid Javid, does not appear to be accurate.
So for a Wednesday flight from the US to the UK, arriving the following morning, you could test on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. For a 9pm flight on Wednesday, you could take the test at 9am on Monday – 60 hours before departure.
Simon Calder7 December 2021 08:17
In case you missed it: what are today’s new rules?
Today, new testing rules for British travellers and those visiting the UK come into effect.
Announced over several updates during the last week, they include the reintroduction of PCR tests for the fully vaccinated on return to the country, self-isolation while day two testers wait for results, and the addition once more of pre-departure tests for all travellers from all but two countries
Confused? We took a deep dive into the new rules and exactly what they mean for travellers:
Simon Calder7 December 2021 07:43
Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s travel liveblog, where we’ll be following all the latest news and updates.
Lucy Thackray7 December 2021 07:37