Transport secretary estimates 5-6,000 British holidaymakers heading home
A young couple are cutting short their honeymoon in Mexico from two weeks to two days after the Latin American nation was added to the UK’s “red list” – requiring hotel quarantine for anyone arriving back after 4am on Sunday 8 August.
An estimated 5,000 to 6,000 British holidaymakers are scrambling for flights home from Mexico before the country joins the UK high-risk register, according to the transport secretary, Grant Shapps.
Among them is Joe Coward, a 29-year-old student from London, who discovered the new restrictions after landing in Mexico early on Thursday morning with his bride.
He told the PA news agency: “We touched down to find that our two-week honeymoon, which had already been rearranged several times, was going to be a two-day visit.
“We’ve arranged a flight for tomorrow and will be spending today getting ready to turn right around and go home.
“We feel extremely angry at the government’s incompetent handling of international travel rules during this crisis, and incredibly sad and frustrated that the time that should’ve been spent enjoying being newlyweds has been ruined.”
Mr Coward said if the couple do not receive a refund from British Airways for their holiday, based near Cancun, they will be “several thousand pounds out of pocket”.
Ayo Faley, a call handler for NHS Test and Trace in London, also landed in Cancun on Thursday morning but she plans to stay for her holiday as planned and pay for quarantine.
The 24-year-old told PA that when she learnt of the red-list rating she “went into a state of panic”.
She said: “I am absolutely distraught… I’ve decided to just stay and enjoy the time here… I’ll just have to face the consequences when I arrive.”
The UK government says Mexico was added to the high-risk red list “due to increasing incidence in country, growing positive cases of those travelling to the UK, and the presence of the B.1.621 variant first identified in Colombia”.
Arrivals from Mexico before the 4am Sunday deadline are governed by amber list rules, which means self-isolation for people who have not been vaccinated in the UK, European Union or US – but no quarantine for travellers who have the right jabs.
But touching down in the UK after that time triggers 11 nights in hotel quarantine – at a cost of £1,750 for a solo traveller until 12 August, when prices increase.
Many hundreds of UK travellers are due to return before Monday, regardless of the new rules.
Tui Airways has flights from Cancun, the main Mexican resort for British holidaymakers, on Thursday afternoon to Gatwick and Manchester, and on Friday afternoon to Manchester.
British Airways is offering passengers – whether flight-only or BA Holidays – the option to re-book their flights from Mexico at no additional cost.
A spokesperson for the airline said: “Our teams have been working through the night to arrange as many additional seats out of Mexico as possible to help get Britons home.
“British Airways Holidays will automatically refund any customer with a booking to Mexico in the next four weeks.”
The Independent understands that BA is laying on extra relief flights from both Cancun and Mexico City, converting a cargo service to a passenger flight and re-timing an existing flight to arrive before the 4am Sunday deadline.
At present BA’s Saturday flight from Cancun to Gatwick is scheduled to depart at 5.40pm and land at the Sussex airport at 9.15am on Sunday. It would need to be moved to a morning departure from Mexico in order to beat the deadline.
The airline is also negotiating with hotels in Cancun to try to get refunds for people who have to return to the UK earlier than planned.
The Friday afternoon flight from Mexico City to London Heathrow on BA is currently priced at £1,239 one way in premium economy – but the airline is keeping online fares deliberately high to protect re-booking space for existing BA customers.