Speaking at the daily government briefing today, Alok Sharma, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy shared a travel update with the nation. He offered brief travel advice for Britons stuck abroad due to coronavirus.
Sharma said: “My colleagues in the FCO, Dominic Raab, other colleagues, are working incredibly hard, night and day to make sure that we can get Brits back to the UK.
“We will continue to work with airlines to make sure we can get them back from around the world.
“Of course in the first instance through commercial means, but also through repatriation flights in exceptional circumstances, for instance by chartering.
“As you know a BA chartered flight arrived from Peru yesterday, and the FCO are working very hard to get more flights confirmed in the coming days.”
Britons around the world have struggled to get home as flights everywhere are cancelled to help stop the spread of coronavirus.
One Briton stuck in Australia shared her experience exclusively with Express.co.uk.
Miriam Fenner, 30, an architect from London detailed her “desperate” attempts to get home.
Miriam arrived in Australia on March 8 and was due to leave on March 31 with Qantas. However, on March 20, Qantas changed the label of the return flight to “old flight” on her travel itinerary but with no updated details.
Upon calling, and after being on hold for two hours, Miriam was told the flight was cancelled and that nothing else could be offered.
“They had a couple more flights over the next few days but they were all booked out,” explained Miriam. “After that phone call, they deleted the flight home from my itinerary. There has also been no mention of a refund.”
To add injury to insult, Miriam said she had in fact previously considered changing to an earlier flight after news of cancelled flights started circulating as the pandemic worsened but thought she would be safer to stick to the flight she has already booked. Unfortunately, the British Embassy provided no further hope.
“When the airlines started cancelling flights and borders around the world started closing I went to the British Consular office in Perth,” said Miriam.
“There was a lot of us arriving, we were turned away at the door and told the office was ‘closed due to staff members being ill.’”
A member of security staff at the embassy directed the group to go online for advice. “I have been told it was the same in all cities around Australia,” explained Miriam. “Their phone lines, including the emergency crisis line have been disabled. The only line of communication is their Twitter feed which just says to keep checking the travel advice which in turn says ‘come home now’ which is impossible.”
Express.co.uk spoke to the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) who explained that it is “an unprecedented challenge” but across the board more embassy staff were working from home, however they were still providing consular assistance 24/7. “Dedicated” staff are said to be “working around the clock.”
In Australia a registry has been launched for Britons needing to get back to the UK which those stranded should fill in the form for. This is recommended as the best thing to for those wanting to get home.
When will flights start up in the same way again?
Jet2 has cancelled all of its flights for another five weeks until April 31, and Emirates has announced it will cut all passenger flights.
Ryanair has also reduced its service by 80 percent. EasyJet has also followed suit with cancellations and will suspend the majority of its fleet from March 24.
They will operate on 10 percent capacity, and review their measures weekly.
Johan Lundgren, easyJet CEO, said the airline would continue to operate rescue flights for people stranded abroad.
He said: “These are unprecedented times for the airline industry.”
Published at Sat, 28 Mar 2020 17:24:00 +0000