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UK airlines gave travellers ‘incorrect and contradictory’ advice about travel rules

UK airlines gave travellers ‘incorrect and contradictory’ advice about travel rules
Agents from British Airways, Ryanair, easyJet and Jet2 said they had never heard of lateral flow tests

Major airlines are providing UK travellers with “incorrect and contradictory” advice about Covid testing requirements that could jeopardise their holiday, a new investigation has found.

Consumer champion Which? found that almost half (seven out of 15) of the calls they made to British Airways (BA), easyJet, Jet2, Ryanair and Tui seeking guidance resulted in wrong or confusing information being given.

If heeded, this advice could have left travellers in a position where they were denied boarding, with a potential loss of hundreds of pounds for their holiday.

In an undercover operation, Which? telephoned all five airlines’ customer service lines posing as passengers and asked the four same questions about testing requirements when flying to Portugal.

In four of the calls, two with BA and two with Tui, agents “provided information that would have seen passengers turned away from their flight”.

Despite testing being mandatory for both vaccinated and unvaccinated passengers travelling to mainland Portugal at the time of research, two representatives from Tui and one from BA told Which?’s team that vaccinated travellers were not required to take a test prior to the flight.

Customers who followed this advice would have been denied boarding, leaving them out of pocket for the entire cost of their flight or holiday.

Only two airline representatives from Jet2 and Tui answered all of the questions accurately, although the representative from Tui took almost 20 minutes to do so, with the caller reporting that “the agent spent more time upselling Tui’s testing partner” than answering their questions.

Six of the agents Which? spoke with (two BA, two easyJet, one Jet2 and one Ryanair representative), said they had never heard of lateral flow tests, despite these being a standard travel testing requirement for passengers.

Instead of providing callers with reliable information, Ryanair directed Which? callers to “ask the country”, “call the embassy” or “check the government website”.

Elsewhere, an easyJet agent gave a caller a number they claimed was for a Covid-19 advice line, but this turned out to be HM Revenue & Custom’ Covid-19 helpline for businesses and the self-employed.

Rory Boland, Which?’s travel editor, said: “When airlines are responsible for deciding whether a passenger can board their flight or not, it’s essential that their staff have a thorough and accurate understanding of the rules. Otherwise, passengers could be left out of pocket for the entire cost of their flight or holiday if they follow the wrong advice.

“The most reliable place to look for information on testing requirements for travel to your destination is the FCDO’s website – here you’ll find the most up-to-date information regarding entry requirements, traffic light changes, and other critical information before you travel.”

In response to the investigation, British Airways told The Independent: “Since the beginning of the global pandemic our teams have worked tirelessly to help customers navigate the fast-changing and differing global travel restrictions in place.

“While we don’t believe the issues raised in Which?’s three calls are representative of the hundreds of thousands we handle, we’ve reminded colleagues to keep referring customers to gov.uk to avoid unintentional confusion.”

Tui shared the following statement with The Independent: “We always strive to provide the best service possible for our customers, and our agents are trained and updated with new information on an on-going basis. Extra training to support fight-only queries is being provided, and to help customers further, detailed and current entry requirement information is available on our dedicated Covid hub.”

easyJet told The Independent that they send “written communications to our customers before they fly”, advising them to check the latest government advice for their destination.

“We continually review the information we equip our agents with and provide them with ongoing and extensive training and so we continue with this to ensure that agents are providing accurate and consistent advice to customers, however, we always remind customers that ultimately it is their responsibility to ensure they meet entry requirements and will continue to advise customers to check the local Government requirements prior to departure.”

The Independent has also approached Ryanair and Jet2 for comment.