Coronavirus: SPAA hits out at ‘futile’ Foreign Office advice for stranded Britons

The Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA) has hit out at the UK government for not repatriating Britons who are still stranded abroad.

The group described the Foreign Office advice to stranded holidaymakers urging them to come home, as “futile”, pointing out that there are now very few flights, if any, still operating.

Scottish agents say they are finding it impossible to make plans to rescue customers, with fares for the few remaining international flights “inflated to extortionate levels”.

SPAA president, Joanne Dooey, said: “In September 2019, the Civil Aviation Authority spent nearly £500 million repatriating Thomas Cook customers.

“Only 55% of those repatriated in this mass operation were Atol protected. Our members – and their customers who are stranded – cannot understand why UK travellers, who are currently stranded and who have Atol protection, are not being helped to return home.

“They are being left to try to organise their own way home when borders are closing with little or no notice and there is now an extremely limited number of flights from any destinations around the globe.

“The example of some Britons repatriated from Peru while hundreds of others remain stranded, confined to hotel rooms, is just one group of travellers in one country.”

Dooey added: “We understand that the government faces a myriad of challenges in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, but it is useless for them to to issue advice to return to the UK when it’s impossible to do so; and then to offer no help to those in this situation.

“We are urging the government to provide repatriation flights for these individuals.”

It’s estimated that somewhere in the region of half a million UK business travellers, holidaymakers and those visiting friends and family are currently abroad and in need of some form of assistance.

SPAA members say customers abroad are finding it impossible to reach embassy staff or contact their insurance companies.

Dooey said: “Our members are continuing to work against seemingly unsurmountable obstacles at a time when most of them are facing their own business struggles.

“It’s vital that travel agents remain in business. As a sector we have proven our value to UK travellers on many occasions over the last few years during times of extreme turbulence for the global travel industry.

“However, at this moment they, like tens of thousands of SMEs across the country, are facing a massively uncertain future. The SPAA is urging the government to provide immediate assistance to agents and their travellers.”

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