Travel plans are left in tatters amid new Christmas Covid curbs

Christmas plans have been left in tatters amid new Covid curbs as some airlines refuse to refund passengers for trips they can no longer take.  

Boris Johnson effectively cancelled Christmas for almost 18 million people in London, south-eastern and eastern England as the region was put into a new two-week lockdown from Sunday.

Under the new Tier 4 rules non-essential shops – as well as gyms, cinemas, casinos and hairdressers – have to stay shut and people are limited to meeting one other person from another household in an outdoor public space.

Those in Tier 4 were told they should not travel out of the region, while those outside were advised against visiting.

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have revealed they will not be offering refunds to passengers who cancel trips for the end of the year following the new restrictions.  

The Virgin Atlantic Twitter account posted: ‘Refunds are only permitted for cancelled flights. If you have booked with us directly, you have the option to rebook for a new travel date up until 31 December 2022.

‘If you have booked with a third party, please contact them directly for your options.’

British Airways customer Lisa Hunter tweeted at the airline saying: ‘Just been moved into Tier 4 yet just been told on phone we cannot have a refund for flights booked for over xmas as ”the flight isn’t cancelled”.

‘It’s now illegal to travel out of Tier 4 areas so surely this cannot be the case? Heathrow is in Tier 4!’

BA replied: ‘Hi Lisa, flights are continuing to operate, as essential travel is still permitted. We’re afraid a full refund is only permitted if your flight is cancelled.’

A pedestrian walks through an almost deserted concourse at Charing Cross train station in London on December 20

A pedestrian walks through an almost deserted concourse at Charing Cross train station in London on December 20

A pedestrian walks through an almost deserted concourse at Charing Cross train station in London on December 20

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have revealed they will not be offering refunds to passengers who cancel trips for the end of the year following the new restrictions

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have revealed they will not be offering refunds to passengers who cancel trips for the end of the year following the new restrictions

British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have revealed they will not be offering refunds to passengers who cancel trips for the end of the year following the new restrictions

A BA spokesperson told MailOnline: ‘Customers who are unable to travel, or choose not to, can continue to change their flights or request a voucher for future use as part of our Book with Confidence policy, which has been available since the beginning of the pandemic.

As always, if a customer’s flight is cancelled they are entitled to a full refund or a voucher, and we always contact any customers whose flights may be affected to discuss their options.’

A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson told MailOnline: ”We understand the difficulties that Covid-19 and Tier 4 restrictions pose to some of our customers. 

‘Where a customer is unable to travel for any reason, we offer as much choice and flexibility as possible to help them change or amend their plans, with a name change and two date change fees waived for a new travel date up until 31 December 2022. 

‘Where a flight is cancelled, customers are of course entitled to a full cash refund.’ 

Rival airline EasyJet said that it would be offering refunds for those who were staying home.

A spokesperson said: ‘EasyJet plans to fly its current schedule over the coming days, however, following the UK Government’s announcement implementing Tier 4 restrictions which includes advice against travelling abroad, we understand some customers may now need to change their flights.

Londoners are seen waiting for trains in Euston Station in a last-ditch bid to spend Christmas out of the capital

Londoners are seen waiting for trains in Euston Station in a last-ditch bid to spend Christmas out of the capital

Londoners are seen waiting for trains in Euston Station in a last-ditch bid to spend Christmas out of the capital

‘Impacted customers in Tier 4 areas have the option of transferring to an alternative flight free of charge, receiving a voucher or receiving a refund. This policy applies to any flights up until 30 December.

‘All other customers can make changes to their booking without incurring a change fee up to 14 days before departure online via Manage Bookings at easyJet.com.’

Last night large numbers of Londoners fled the capital via train to escape the new restrictions just before they became enforceable – but many more are now stuck with tickets for Christmas visits they are now forbidden from using. 

Which? consumer rights expert Adam French said: ‘These new restrictions will cause massive travel disruption and chaos, leaving many peoples’ festive plans in tatters.

‘If you’ve forked out on money for a train ticket and have to stay put you should be able to cancel the trip and get your money back.

‘Rail operators should be as accommodating as possible by allowing passengers the flexibility to use tickets or issuing them refunds if they can’t travel at another time.’

What are the new Tier 4 rules? 

The Tier 4 rules will be essentially the same as the blanket lockdown that England was under in November. 

Non-essential retail must close, as well as leisure facilities, and personal care such as hairdressers. 

However, places of worship can stay open. 

People in other Tiers will be advised not to go into the highest bracket areas, while residents of Tier 4 must not stay overnight in lower infection spots. 

<!—->Advertisement

Restrictions which forced millions of people across the UK to tear up their Christmas plans may have to remain for ‘the next couple of months’, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has suggested.   

‘What is really important is that people not only follow them (the new rules) but everybody in a Tier 4 area acts as if you have the virus to stop spreading it to other people,’ Mr Hancock told Sky News’s Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme.

Scientists on the Government’s New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (Nervtag) have concluded the VUI 202012/01 mutant strain, identified by the Public Health England laboratories at Porton Down, is spreading more quickly.

The Prime Minister was advised of the group’s conclusions at a meeting with ministers on the Covid O Committee on Friday evening, and the new regulations were signed off by Cabinet before Saturday’s announcement scuppered many people’s plans to see family for Christmas.

‘We know with this new variant you can catch it more easily from a small amount of the virus being present,’ Mr Hancock said.

‘All of the different measures we have in place, we need more of them to control the spread of the new variant than we did to control the spread of the old variant. That is the fundamental problem.

‘We know that because we know that in November that in the areas where this new variant started, in Kent, the cases carried on rising whereas in the rest of the country the November lockdown worked very effectively.

‘It is an enormous challenge, until we can get the vaccine rolled out to protect people. This is what we face over the next couple of months.’

In the rest of England, Christmas easing has been severely curtailed, with households allowed to gather for just one day – Christmas Day itself – rather than the five days previously planned.

Scotland and Wales are also restricting Christmas ‘bubbles’ to a single day, while people in Northern Ireland have been asked to consider forming a bubble for Christmas Day only.

Wales has also mirrored the Tier 4 restrictions in England by bringing forward Alert Level 4 measures to Sunday, while Scotland has said its travel ban with the rest of the UK will now remain in place right throughout the festive period.

People go through barriers to catch trains at Paddington Station in London. The introduction of the new tier seeks to curb a new more infectious strain of the virus, Boris Johnson explained during a press briefing on Saturday

People go through barriers to catch trains at Paddington Station in London. The introduction of the new tier seeks to curb a new more infectious strain of the virus, Boris Johnson explained during a press briefing on Saturday

People go through barriers to catch trains at Paddington Station in London. The introduction of the new tier seeks to curb a new more infectious strain of the virus, Boris Johnson explained during a press briefing on Saturday

People wait on the concourse at Paddington Station in London on Saturday as people scramble to get out of London before Tier 4 rules come into power at midnight

People wait on the concourse at Paddington Station in London on Saturday as people scramble to get out of London before Tier 4 rules come into power at midnight

People wait on the concourse at Paddington Station in London on Saturday as people scramble to get out of London before Tier 4 rules come into power at midnight

The new regulations creating a Tier 4 in England came into force at 7am on Sunday and will be laid before Parliament, which is in recess, on Monday.

The statutory instrument was made at 6am on Sunday, and must be approved by both the House of Commons and House of Lords within 28 days, otherwise the change to the law is reversed as per a process known as the ‘made affirmative procedure’.

Which parts of the country are in Tier 4?

Kent

Buckinghamshire

Berkshire

Surrey (excluding Waverley)

The boroughs of Gosport, Havant, Portsmouth, Rother and Hastings

All 32 London boroughs and the city of London.

Bedford, Central Bedfordshire, Milton Keynes, Luton, Peterborough

Hertfordshire

Essex (excluding Colchester, Uttlesford and Tendring).

<!—->Advertisement

At a No 10 news conference on Saturday, Mr Johnson said he was taking the actions with a ‘heavy heart’, but the scientific evidence had left him with no choice.

The announcements prompted a rush to the London train stations and by 7pm on Saturday, there were no tickets available online from several London stations including Paddington, Kings Cross and Euston.

Footage posted on social media showed large crowds at St Pancras station waiting to board trains to Leeds.

The Netherlands is banning flights from the UK for at least the rest of the year in an attempt to make sure the new strain does not reach its shores.

It said it will assess ‘with other European Union nations the possibilities to contain the import of the virus from the United Kingdom’.

The announcements came as a hammer blow to many businesses – particularly retailers hoping to pick up some pre-Christmas sales at the end of a torrid year in which they had faced repeated orders to close.

There was also fury among some Conservative MPs after weeks of growing backbench unrest over the return of more and more stringent controls.

Mark Harper, the leader of the Covid Recovery Group of Tory MPs, demanded the recall of Parliament so MPs could debate and vote on the changes for England.

British Medical Association council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul however welcomed the announcement which, he said, would save lives and help health services cope with ‘incredible demand’.

Link hienalouca.com

(Total views: 59 Time, 1 visits per day)

Leave a Reply