Ineffective checks and proper tracing of arrivals to the UK risks further undermine consumer confidence, according to agents and operators who said the government was “paying lip-service” to safety issues.
Speakers on a Travel Weekly webcast said they had personal experience of “ambiguous” arrivals processes not working as they should and said that travellers could lose faith in health and safety protocols.
Chris Wright, managing director of Sunvil Holidays, said he had flown into Heathrow Terminal 2 and Stansted since the lifting of lockdown and had not been properly checked on either occasion.
“At Heathrow Terminal 2, I got pulled to the manual gate because my passport doesn’t work,” he said. “I got asked ‘Have you filled that form in’? I said yes and he just waved me through.”
He later tweeted: “Husband flew into Gatwick yesterday. No-one asking about PLF forms. That’s four flights into four UK airports over the last month and not one check. How can @GOVUK claim this is being done to stop cases being imported?”
Jackie Steadman, owner of Travel Time World, recounted a similar experience at Luton Airport on Sunday night as she flew home from Portugal – a country which does not have an air bridge meaning arrivals are required to self-isolate on their return.
She said no-one had asked to see her form at any stage and that she had eventually had to tell an immigration officer that she was coming in from the Algarve and had to request to show her form to him.
Steadman said: “The next time I go, why am I going to waste 25 minutes filling it in? And I would say that about half of the people I was chatting to on the plane had not completed the forms.”
Wright said: “We’ve always been very clear that the health and safety of our customers is our priority and if there is an issue and a country needs quarantining or locking down, then that’s obviously done for a certain reason, and it should be the case.
“But I think the feeling is that it’s just being done for lip-service. And it’s almost like it’s being done to please certain people so that the government can say that they’re keeping everybody safe. But the reality of it is that they’re not actually tracking and tracing people.
“So it’s this double whammy…there’s a huge knock on effect on demand and an effect on our businesses. But at the same time, the general public aren’t actually being kept safe because anybody can come in that wants to, without having any sort of checks. That’s the sad part about it.”
Steadman added: “It’s mixed messages again. This creates a lack of consumer confidence because it’s a mixed message. Am I supposed to fill the form in or am I not supposed to fill it in? If I fill it in, am I going to get checked? Or am I not? Is somebody going to phone me up in a few minutes now to check I’m at home?
“It’s this mixed messages and in stark contrast to how it is in Portugal. They have very strict rules. This is what you have to do. And you do it. In the UK it’s ambiguous and wishy washy.”
Alan Cross, head of sales at Jet2holidays said: “It’s a daily and ongoing job keeping up-to-date with what’s happening and trying to put out clear communications for all countries, let alone the inbound requirements for here.
“As long as agents or suppliers or the customer knows exactly what they’re doing, and expects to see that (then it works), but how’s that a confidence builder when they come back into this country, and don’t get the checks that they expect?
“That’s what I mean about people’s confidence – there’s almost an instance of ’I’d rather be abroad, they can do it better than we can manage it here’.”
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