Airlines and operators face an anxious weekend amid uncertainty over travel being allowed to Portugal despite the country being the only major European green list destination from Monday.
Doubts have been cast on whether the nation will open its borders as originally planned on Sunday as the Lisbon government extended a ‘state of public calamity’ – the second highest Covid alert level – on the mainland for a further 15 days from Monday until May 30.
Any delay to the reopening of Portugal’s borders to British holidaymakers will throw industry restart plans into chaos with the prospect of mass cancellations and refunds.
Demand soared after Portugal was one of only 12 countries given green list status a week ago as part of the UK government’s traffic light system for reopening overseas travel from May 17.
Capacity has been hiked by the likes of easyJet, Ryanair and Tui to the main Portuguese gateways of Faro, Lisbon and Porto.
Portugal’s cabinet office minister Mariana Vieira da Silva said at a briefing when asked whether the UK restrictions would soon be lifted: “I have no information to give yet.
“Work is going on and as soon as there is a decision it will be announced, but no decision was taken in this cabinet meeting.”
She did not say when a decision on the matter might be taken, the BBC reported.
Tui has 44 flights due to depart for Portugal between May 17-30, including 28 to Faro in the Algarve and easyJet yesterday added 25,000 extra seats to the country.
Tui updated its website last night to say: “We’re aware of reports this evening regarding flights and holidays due to depart between 17th and 30th May 2021 to mainland Portugal.
“We’re monitoring the situation closely and will provide a further update as soon as we have clarification from the Portuguese government
“All holidays to Madeira and Porto Santo will continue to operate as planned.
“All holidays to Portugal (Algarve) departing from 31st May will continue to operate as planned.
“We would like to reassure customers that we will contact them directly if their flight or holiday is impacted to discuss their options, this includes offering a full refund or the chance to change the holiday for free. We would like to thank them for their understanding.”
Britons are currently restricted from entering European Union countries for non-essential reasons, a guideline that is recommended by Brussels.
Portuguese officials believed the ban would have been lifted by the EU by May 16, but the European Commission will now not meet until next week to discuss the issue, The Times reported.
For Portugal to reverse the ban in spite of Brussels was described as being diplomatically delicate because Lisbon holds the EU presidency.
Meanwhile, the Champions League football final between Chelsea and Manchester City was switched from Istanbul to take place in Porto on May 29, with 12,000 British fans due to attend although travel arrangements have yet to be confirmed.
Scottish Passenger Agents Association president Joanne Dooey said: “Portugal’s Covid status is that the country is in a ‘state of calamity’ – which is one step below their ‘state of emergency’ level.
“This phrase also describes the position for travel agents this week. With around 60 hours to go until we expected to be able to be sending travellers to Portugal, we are wholly unclear whether they will be able to enter Portugal.
“If the restrictions remain in place, travel agents across the country will be working with their clients to move their booking for them – for some people this may be up to the sixth or seventh time their booking has been moved since March 2020.
“The first flights from Scotland to Portugal are due to depart on Monday 24 from Edinburgh and Glasgow to Faro with a Lisbon flight from Edinburgh on 3 June. If Portugal does not lift the restrictions for UK travellers, it will mean that there are no green light countries to which Scots can fly direct.
“We’d also like to reiterate than the only guarantee of being protected if the Portuguese restrictions – and indeed any restrictions – remain in place is if you have bought a bonded travel package.
“If travellers have bought and paid for a flight and accommodation separately, then they will not necessarily be entitled to a refund. The airlines may still choose to operate, even if the passengers would be denied entry and in this case, passengers may not be entitled to a refund. It’s the same story with paying your hotel directly.
“It’s not illegal to travel to an amber light county at the moment as long as you abide by the isolation rules on your return and take into account the cost of the PCR tests required.
“We urge anyone considering travelling overseas to book with a travel agent who will guide your through the options and ensure that you are well protected against future short or long term changes.”
Travel Weekly has approached the Portuguese National Tourist Office for comment.