In Depth

Coronavirus: when can I book my next holiday?

Government warns holidaymakers off booking trips until after lockdown

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Downing Street has warned Britons they should not book holidays until the current coronavirus lockdown measures are relaxed.

No. 10 said official rules state that “non-essential” travel is banned, whether within the UK or overseas.

What exactly has the government said?

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on 17 April: “Clearly people will want to see what the trajectory of this disease is in the next few weeks.

“We are not seeing declines yet. I won’t be booking a summer holiday at this point, let’s put it that way.”

But Abta, the body which represents travel companies, said the comments were “thoughtless” and would damage the travel industry.

“It shows complete disregard for the UK travel industry, the hundreds of thousands of people it employs and the struggle it is facing in this current crisis,” Abta said in a statement.

“It would be better if the government focused on taking the necessary steps to support the sector.”

And Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, also criticised the government’s warning not to book holidays, saying “it will only add further confusion to the lack of clear guidance around what the lockdown means for future travel plans.

“To bring an end to some of the uncertainty around refunds, rebooking and insurance claims, all Foreign Office travel warnings against non-essential travel should be extended to a definitive date,” Travel Weekly reports.

What are the current rules?

The lockdown measures currently in place ban all “non-essential” travel and public gatherings of more than two people, unless they are from the same household.

But there’s nothing in law to stop you booking a future holiday now, so long as lockdown measures have been lifted by the time you are scheduled to go.

However, exactly when lockdown will end is still unclear. The measures have just been extended for a further three weeks, with the outlook for summer looking uncertain.

Boris Johnson reportedly favours extending the current measures for even longer, rather than lifting them and risking a second peak of infections, reports the BBC.

The Foreign Office has advised against “all but essential international travel” for an indefinite period.

No. 10 reiterated these official rules, saying travel within the UK for holidays was “not something which the current guidelines allow for” and Foreign Office advice “continues to be that you should go abroad for essential travel only”, says the BBC.

“While we are making progress in our fight against coronavirus we are not able to say with certainty the point at which social distancing measures can be relaxed,” a spokesperson added.

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What have companies done?

Jet2 Holidays and Tui have cancelled all holidays and flights until mid-June and mid-May respectively, while EasyJet, BA and Virgin Atlantic have stopped most of their flights and furloughed staff.

Airbnb, which allows users to rent out and book private homes, has temporarily restricted UK bookings to key workers and “essential stays”.

Travel experts have said that coronavirus could permanently change the aviation industry, with some airlines expected to go out of business and prices set to double, according to The Telegraph.

An industry source told the paper: “After lockdown there will be a mad rush and a price surge for airline fares. It would be no surprise to see social distancing on planes, and we will probably see some set guidance on how planes should do this.

"There are currently cheap fares available but this pricing is based on a full plane… if only a proportion of seats are allowed to be sold… [then] new inflated prices could stay high for as long as social distancing, which could last months.”

EasyJet is one company that has confirmed it plans to keep the middle seat on its planes empty when it resumes flights, says ITV News.

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