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British holidaymakers make a last-minute dash from Croatia

‘We could’ve had a bit more warning!’ British holidaymakers reveal how they spent thousands of pounds to make a last-minute dash back home from Croatia to beat quarantine deadline

  • From 4am travellers arriving from Croatia will have to self-isolate for 14 days 
  • Adam and Katie Marlow hired a car to drive three hours to get to an earlier flight
  • Holidaymaker Steve Laws, 53, blasted the Government’s actions as ‘shambolic’

British holidaymakers have revealed how they endured long last-minute car journeys and spent thousands of pounds in a panicked dash to get home from Croatia before the quarantine deadline – as they slammed the lack of warning. 

From 4am on Saturday travellers arriving to the UK from the Mediterranean country will have to self-isolate for 14 days after a spike in coronavirus cases led to the British government removing Croatia from its safe travel list.

At London Heathrow Airport’s Terminal 5 on Friday evening, British Airways flights arriving from the Croatian city of Dubrovnik and the capital Zagreb were among the last to arrive in the UK before the quarantine deadline.

Adam and Katie Marlow, from Buckinghamshire, were forced to drive a hire car three hours from the coastal city of Zadar to Zagreb to catch a new flight home instead of returning on Saturday.

From 4am on Saturday travellers arriving to the UK from Croatia will have to self-isolate for 14 days. Pictured, tourists at Split International Airport in Croatia yesterday

The couple decided to come back earlier than planned due to 33-year-old Ms Marlow’s pregnancy and her need to return to work on Monday.

They said their new flights costs around £300, while the care hire was another £100.

Asked about the Government’s handling of the travel corridor rules, Mr Marlow, 37, who works for a financial company, said: ‘With most of the changes I support everything they do, I would say though that they should publish the criteria for where the cases are.

Tourists wearing face masks wait at Split International Airport in Split, Croatia, yesterday. Steve Laws, 53, a company director from Thame in Oxfordshire, blasted the Government’s actions as ‘shambolic’

Adam and Katie Marlow, from Buckinghamshire, were forced to drive a hire car three hours from the coastal city of Zadar to Zagreb to catch a new flight home instead of returning on Saturday. Pictured, crowds of people on the beach in Split yesterday

‘Then we could have kept have an eye on it… and we could have maybe made a different decision and maybe an earlier decision and it might have cost us a bit less money.’

Mrs Marlow, a sales manager who is seven months pregnant, added: ‘Completely understand why they are doing it, but it would be good to have a bit more warning, because we only had 24 hours notice. That’s all we had.’

Meanwhile Steve Laws, 53, a company director from Thame in Oxfordshire, blasted the Government’s actions as ‘shambolic’.

He spent around £2,000 to return from his holiday eight days early with his wife and three children.

‘There are zero checks at immigration,’ he said on Friday night. ‘The process was a complete farce.

‘We are obeying the Government’s rules in good faith and there’s absolutely no evidence the Government is monitoring in any way who is coming into the country,’ he claimed.

Passengers wearing face masks as they arrive at Heathrow Airport after a flight from Dubrovnik, Croatia, landed yesterday

Thomas Maguire, 61, a sales manager from Northern Ireland, was due to fly back on Sunday, but returned to beat the quarantine deadline due to the impact it would have on his family.

He branded the rule change a ‘complete shambles’, saying he had spent nearly £400 on a flight he hoped to recoup through insurance.

‘Why they decided to do it the way they have done it, it’s not in support of any scientific evidence… that I’m safer today than I would be tomorrow,’ he said.

Meanwhile Cristiano Torti, 41, spent around £1,500 to fly his wife and two young children home six days earlier than planned.

He said his family lost around £500 from the original return flights, but did not want to quarantine for two weeks at home.

Meanwhile, flights to Portugal have risen sixfold, but hotels have slashed prices as Britons plan a late summer getaway now the country is back on the UK’s ‘green list’

‘It would have been a nightmare, I have two young children that drive me crazy at the best of times,’ he joked.

‘My wife and I both work from home, so it would have very difficult with them at home.

No flights? How to travel home from Croatia by train 

British holidaymakers in Croatia were limited in their options for getting home to beat the quarantine with very few direct flights available on Friday.

They could book a flight with a stopover on the way back to the UK, but that meant a journey time more akin to a transatlantic jaunt than a short-haul European getaway.

But those who do not mind a long trek could opt to shun planes altogether and travel the whole way home via the railways.

A quick search online will bring up possible routes, timetables and prices, so there could well be a number of Britons unexpectedly discovering parts of Europe by train over the coming hours.

One potential option, taking around 20 hours, is to board a train in Croatia’s capital, Zagreb, and travel through Villach and Salzburg in Austria, Munich in Germany, and on to Paris to catch the Eurostar to London.

Another option would be to leave Zagreb and travel to London via Brussels.

There is also the possibility of leaving Croatia and travelling through part of northern Italy – Trieste, Venice and Milan – and on to the French capital before the final leg of the journey across the Channel to London.

With train journeys from Zagreb to London taking in the region of 20 to 25 hours, holidaymakers would need to have set out on their European railway adventure by now to guarantee being home by 4am on Saturday.

‘Another consequence would have been my eldest child missing a bit of school.’

Mr Torti, a developer from Oxfordshire, added: ‘Had we not had children I think we might have just waited it out… but with two young children at home it wasn’t feasible.’

A ‘gutted’ Mr Torti said he had been aware of the risk of travel rules changing, but added: ‘I do wonder though if the Government could be a bit more selective.

‘So for example I understand that there are certain hotspots in Croatia where the case numbers were quite high, so perhaps they could have selective on those travelling from those specific hotspots.

‘On the other hand people would have found a way around that.’

He added: ‘We’ve lost a lot of of money, between the accommodation, the flights, and the knock-on effects: the care hire, the airport parking, I kind of wish we’d stayed home to be honest despite the miserable British weather.’

While holidaymakers rushing home from Croatia suffered, Portugal saw a dramatic increase in holiday bookings today. 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced quarantine will not be required on return to the UK from Portugal yesterday, leaving travel companies expecting a surge in bookings over the coming days.

The country is traditionally one of British holidaymakers’ most popular destinations, attracting 2.1 million visitors a year, but was banned during the lockdown.

But with the doors opened and a Bank Holiday at the end of the month, airlines are looking to take advantage of soaring demand.  

Aviation data analysts Cirium reported 719 flights between the UK and Portugal before pupils return to school next month, with a total seat capacity of nearly 128,000.

Jet2 announced it was putting on additional flights with thousands of extra seats to meet the surge in interest in trips to Portugal.

Average fare prices to Faro – the airport used by holidaymakers heading to the Algarve – rocketed from just £35 to £190 in the hours after Mr Shapps’ announcement.

One website showed a BA flight fare from London to Faro had jumped from £90 to £580 – with a claim it had been reduced from £594 – in a day.

Google searches by MailOnline also showed one BA round trip from London to Faro, leaving this Saturday – the day the quarantine rule is lifted for Portugal – and returning next Saturday – costing £1,069.

Average fare prices to Faro – the airport used by holidaymakers heading to the Algarve – rocketed from just £35 to £190. Pictured: A Google price chart showing how prices on flights to Faro on Sunday have rocketed

Flights from London to Lisbon on Saturday have also rocketed, from around £50 to £181

Prices from London to Faro have also spiked for travel this Sunday, while flights to Lisbon, another popular city break destination, have also rocketed since the announcement, from around £55 to £185, according to Google.

One exasperated holiday-hopeful said on Twitter: ‘And instantly the holidays prices go up to Portugal!’

Yorkshire couple pay £800 to travel home from northern Croatia via Munich to beat the quarantine deadline

Liam and Jodie, a couple from Keighley, West Yorkshire, paid about £800 to travel home from northern Croatia via Munich, in order to beat the quarantine deadline, after finding it impossible to book a direct flight in time.

Liam and Jodie from Keighley, West Yorkshire, who are travelling home from Croatia via Munich to avoid the quarantine

‘There wasn’t an alternative. There are no flights from Pula to the UK on Fridays, only a flight from Zagreb to London runs, but obviously that was fully booked,’ Liam said.

‘The only (other) flights available were with stops in Spain through Ryanair, but then we would have to quarantine anyway,’ he added.

Liam, a mechanical assembly engineer, said he had started a new job recently so ‘didn’t want to miss another two weeks work’.

He added that they had tried to make the most of their trip despite ‘the distraction of not knowing what’s going to happen’, and were treating their visit to Munich as a ‘city break we got as an extra’.

In a bid to meet growing demand, Jet2 said it had put on extra flights to the country from Birmingham, East Midlands, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Leeds Bradford, London Stansted and Manchester. 

Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays said: ‘Customers are responding to the welcome change in government advice by booking their much-needed holidays in the Portuguese sunshine, and we are responding to that by adding more flights and seats. 

‘We want our customers to enjoy their well-deserved holidays, and our decision to act quickly and add even more capacity to Faro ensures they will have plenty of choice.

‘With flights and holidays operating to Faro, in addition to Madeira, we are thrilled to be offering customers two fantastic options in Portugal when they’re looking to book their well-deserved holiday away from the gloom. 

‘With a fantastic choice of flights and holidays, not to mention fantastic deals and free child places available, those looking to get away can take advantage of great choice and value.

‘We have been busy looking after customers and independent travel agents during these uncertain times. 

‘As a result of this, customers know they can trust us deliver and that’s our absolute focus for everyone travelling with us – delivering our award-winning customer service and package holidays you can trust.’ 

However, Portuguese hotel companies, desperate to fill rooms after a summer of lost takings, have kept prices low in a bid to attract sun-seeking tourists.

Only 32.6 per cent of the Algarve’s hotel rooms were booked last month, the worst rate ever for the month of July, according to data seen by the Telegraph.

One hotel in Madeira is available for £90 a night next week, but typically costs between £91 and £146 for similar dates. 

Likewise, another is going for just £84 a night, compared to between £121 and £151.

Travel expert Simon Calder told Good Morning Britain prices for flights from Croatia to Britain are now ‘going through the roof’ as people scramble to get home. 

The cheapest direct service from Zagreb to Heathrow yesterday was £286 on British Airways, while a Croatia Airlines flight between the two airports was £496.

The cheapest flight with a change that would get back before 4am was £230 with Eurowings, via Stuttgart. There were also KLM flights via Amsterdam, but this would involve quarantining – with the Netherlands already off the air bridges list.

A British mother holidaying in Croatia said she would not cut short her trip despite the new quarantine forcing her son to miss his first week of school.

Jennie Dock’s 11-year-old son Cass Robertson-Dock will be in self-isolation when his new school starts back, after Croatia was removed from the UK’s list of air bridges.

But Ms Dock, who is on holiday with friend Elle Mitchell, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: ‘We’re both lucky in that we can both work from home, both work remotely.

‘Cass was year six last year, so he did manage to get in for around six weeks or so at the end, which he really enjoyed. So, yeah, it’s unfortunate he’s going to miss the first week, but he’s a bright boy and he’ll catch up, I’m not worried about it.’

British Airways has laid on an extra flight from Zagreb to London Heathrow with seats costing £275.

Holiday firm Jet2.com and Jet2holidays said it will resume its flights and holidays programme to Faro, in Portugal’s Algarve, from Monday

This is more than six times higher than the BA equivalent flight on the Friday four weeks from now, which currently costs only £42. An equivalent flight on the Friday two weeks from now is only £45.

Mr Calder urged people looking at flights with changes to avoid going via Paris or Amsterdam because they would also then have to quarantine. 

Despite the easing of some restrictions, industry leaders warned of dark times ahead. 

Christopher Snelling of the Airport Operators’ Association said: ‘The removal of the quarantine for Portugal is welcome, but the re-introduction of blanket quarantine measures to a further tranche of nations reinforces the significant and continuing challenge facing the aviation industry.

Air passengers arrive at London Heathrow Airport this morning wearing face masks

Crowds of people are pictured in Crikvenica on the northern Adriatic coast on August 13

‘Our airports are facing pressures that were unimaginable six months ago and the Government must work urgently with the industry to introduce regional travel corridors to low-risk areas and agree financial measures that support our airports, who have already lost over £2billion since the start of the pandemic.’

Portugal has seen the number of coronavirus cases drop by 45 per cent over the past month, with 14.4 cases per 100,000 people in the last seven days – well below the government’s threshold of 20 cases. 

It comes as Mr Shapps warned holidaymakers to ‘only travel if you content to unexpectedly quarantine’, after he himself was caught out, as Austria, Croatia and Trinidad were added to Britain’s no-go list.

Referencing his own experience, in which he was left facing a two week quarantine when his department suddenly added Spain to the quarantine list in July, Mr Shapps warned any air bridge could be axed at short notice.

In a tweet in which he announced Croatia, Austria and Trinidad would be added to the Government’s ‘red list’, and Portugal taken off, Mr Shapps said: ‘Data shows we need to remove Croatia, Austria and Trinidad & Tobago from our list of #coronavirus Travel Corridors to keep infection rates DOWN.

‘If you arrive in the UK after 0400 Saturday from these destinations, you will need to self-isolate for 14 days.

‘Data also shows we can now add Portugal to those countries INCLUDED in Travel Corridors.

‘As with all air bridge countries, please be aware that things can change quickly. Only travel if you are content to unexpectedly 14-day quarantine if required (I speak from experience!)’ 

Portuguese travel chiefs welcomed the move as ‘useful for all those who travel between Portugal and the United Kingdom’.

In a tweet, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for Portugal, said: ‘This decision is proof of the good outcome of intense bilateral work.

‘It allowed for an understanding that the situation in the country has always been under control, with Portugal standing as one of the European countries with more tests, fewer deaths and fewer hospitalisations.’

Meanwhile, consumer group Which? said the change in rules for Portugal was ‘likely to come too late to help many struggling holiday companies’.

Which? Travel editor Rory Boland told the BBC that the government had ‘now made it clear that countries can be removed or added from the travel corridor list at a moment’s notice’.

He said: ‘That policy currently makes it too risky for anyone who is not able to quarantine for 14 days on return to travel anywhere abroad.

‘Yet, those holidaymakers who want to heed the government warning to not undertake non-essential travel to Spain, France and now Croatia and Austria are finding it increasingly difficult to claim a refund.

He added: ‘The addition of Portugal is likely to come too late to help many struggling holiday companies who are at the point of collapse, as summer trips have already been cancelled.’

Following the announcement, holiday firm Jet2.com and Jet2holidays said it will resume its flights and holidays programme to Faro, in Portugal’s Algarve, from Monday. 

A sign at Heathrow today warns about self-isolating if they have visited a certain country

Passengers push their luggage through the arrivals at London Heathrow Airport this morning

People wait for planes at Split Airport in Croatia yesterday as they try to get home quickly

Croatia, Austria and Trinidad and Tobago were added to the ‘red’ list due to rising numbers of Covid cases.

Croatia’s total over seven days – a metric closely watched by Downing Street – has risen to 27.4 per 100,000 people.

Britons who arrive back in the UK after the 4am deadline will have to spend 14 days under stricter measures than many faced in lockdown, as they are not even allowed to go outside for exercise or food shopping.

Croatia’s ambassador to the UK said it was ‘a regret’ that the UK Government did not implement regional quarantine rules rather than removing the entire country from its quarantine exemption list.

Igor Pokaz told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘What we are trying to do in our constant dialogue with the British Government on this particular measure of quarantine is to somehow see whether it would be possible, something that other countries do, to have a more nuanced approach.

‘So we regret that it was not possible for the UK Government to consider a regional approach, because in Croatia we have, as I said, witnessed these spikes in certain areas – for example in Zagreb in the capital and maybe among the young population.

‘But in Dubrovnik, its surroundings and the islands there were very, very few cases. And I deliberately mention Dubrovnik and the islands as that is where most of the British tourists go.

‘And Dubrovnik has its own international airport and is naturally secluded from the rest of the country.

‘Germany, as I said, has introduced this model, and has introduced measures for only two of the Croatian counties and we have 20 counties in Croatia.’

Which new countries have been removed from UK’s safe travel list?

Croatia, Austria and Trinidad and Tobago have been removed from the list of safe countries people can travel to without going into quarantine following fears they could be experiencing a second wave of Covid-19.

The move, announced by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps on Thursday evening, means people travelling from these countries will have to isolate for two weeks if they return to the UK after 4am on Saturday.

In addition, Scotland has also removed Switzerland from the safe travel list, so anybody returning to north of the border from the Alpine country will also have to self-isolate for a fortnight.

Here is what it will mean for holidaymakers:

When will I have to self-isolate?

The new measures come into force from 4am on Saturday August 22, meaning that travellers returning to the UK from any of those destinations have around 36 hours to avoid going into quarantine.

Anyone returning after that date will be required to self-isolate for 14 days.

It applies to people returning to England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the addition of Switzerland applies to people in Scotland.

Has anywhere been added to the safe travel list?

Passengers arriving in the UK from Portugal will no longer have to self-isolate because it has been added to the travel corridor list from 4am on Saturday.

Mr Shapps tweeted on Thursday evening: ‘Data also shows we can now add Portugal to those countries included in Travel Corridors.’

Referencing his own isolation after a family holiday to Spain, Mr Shapps added: ‘As with all air bridge countries, please be aware that things can change quickly.

‘Only travel if you are content to unexpectedly 14-day quarantine if required (I speak from experience!)’

– Why is this happening?

Officials say the decision to add the three countries to the quarantine list was based on a ‘significant change in both the level and pace of confirmed cases’.

The weekly incidence per 100,000 people for Croatia has increased from 10.4 on August 12 to 27.4 on August 19 – a 164% increase.

In Trinidad and Tobago, cases have increased over the past four weeks, with a sharp 232% spike in the number of cases per 100,000 people between August 12 and 19.

In Austria, the weekly number of cases per 100,000 of the population has increased from 10.5 on August 13 to 20.3 on August 20, a 93% increase.

– I’ve got a holiday booked to a country on the list, what should I do?

The FCO advises British nationals against ‘all but essential travel’ to the countries on the quarantine list.

Those who still decide to travel after August 22 will have to self-isolate for two weeks.

– What about employers whose employees have to go into quarantine?

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab previously said no worker following quarantine guidance should be penalised by employers, including by being put on to sick pay.

He said that if someone is following the law in relation to quarantine and self-isolating, ‘they can’t have penalties taken against them’.

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