TENS of thousands of Brits stranded abroad will be offered loans to pay for flights and rescued on repatriation flights from this week, Dominic Raab said tonight.
The Foreign Secretary told the nation that British Airways, Easyjet, Jet2 and Virgin will work together to get Brits home, and extra flights will be chartered where commercial flights have all been cancelled.
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Brits who can’t afford to pay for their flights back will be offered emergency loans by the Foreign Office too – but only as a last resort.
Boris Johnson is not giving the daily press conference to the nation while he remains sick with coronavirus – but is still working from Downing Street.
A huge £75million Government fund has been put together to get everyone home who needs to come back to Britain.
Airlines will be able to allow people to change their tickets between airlines for little or no cost – and offer them the latest advice.
And when no more flights are running, the Government will enable special chartered flights with the airlines to get UK residents back home.
Mr Raab said today: “I can today announce a new arrangement from Government and airlines to fly home tens of thousands of people where commercial flights are no longer possible.
“The arrangements agreed today will provide a clearer basis to organise special charter flights where Britons find themselves stranded.
“Our priority will always be the most vulnerable.”
Already 150,000 have come back from Spain, 8,500 people have come back from Morroco, and 5,000 from Cyprus – showing the huge scale of the problem.
Charter flights are already up and running to Ghana and Tunisia.
The UK will add countries this week with the aim of bringing people back from places such as India and South Africa where large numbers of British travellers are stuck and commercial routes are completely suspended.
The Foreign Office is working around the clock to try and keep airports and ports open, he said.
“We have not faced an international challenge quite like this before, but we are going to rise to it,” he added.
What to do if you’re a Brit stranded abroad right now
- First check if there are commercial routes available by visiting the airline websites, FCO Travel Advice pages for the country they are in and local British Embassy social media
- If there are no commercial options, visit the Travel Advice pages and sign up to alerts for their location and follow Embassy social media and email updates
- When special return flights become available, these will be advertised by the Embassy and British nationals on Travel Advice Pages and Embassy social media and those who have registered for updates will be contacted via email
- British nationals will be asked to register their interest through our booking agents CTM
- If you have to change your plans, notify your insurance company as soon as you can
- Keep in regular contact with family and friends at home, so they know you are safe and well
- As a last resort, the Foreign Office will offer an emergency loan
- If you have immigration enquiries, you need to contact either the local immigration authorities in the country or their UK-based embassy
- You must follow the advice of local authorities. Your safety and security is the responsibility of the local authority where you are
- Instructions for British travellers to return home can be found on the coronavirus travel advice page: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/travel-advice-novel-coronavirus
The FCO has tripled the capacity of its international call centre to try and get Brits the help they need.
Brits have so far had to fork out huge sums for flights to get back from holidays and gap years.
And many more say they have been kept in the dark as to how to get home.
Many have seen flights cancelled at the last minute as countries closed their borders.
The Government has urged everyone who could to get home back to the UK as soon as possible – as more and more flights get binned to stop the spread of the virus.
A source said: “Everything is being done to arrange flights to get people back from abroad, particularly the vulnerable.
“But the advice is very clear – if there are commercial options to get home then take them now. Don’t sit around hoping there will be a rescue flight coming for you. Get home while you still can.”
A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesman said: “The Government is seeking to keep key transit routes open as long as possible and is in touch with international partners and the airline industry to make this happen.
“Consular staff are supporting those with urgent need while providing travel advice and support to those still abroad.
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