Coronavirus: Government pledges £75 million to charter flights to get stranded Brits home
30 March 2020, 17:31 | Updated: 31 March 2020, 00:35
The government has announced £75 million will be spent on charter flights to ensure stranded Brits can return home as the coronavirus pandemic rages on.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, said airlines that are being included in the arrangement include British Airways, Virgin, easyJet, Jet2 and Titan, and more companies would be welcome to join.
Mr Raab said: "Target flights from a range of priority countries will start next week.
"Where commercial routes remain, airlines will be responsible - that means offering flights at little to no cost, and means passengers being able to change tickets between carriers.
"Where commercial fights are no longer running, the government will provide financial support for charter flights, and they will be promoted by the government and British Embassies."
NEWS: Partnership between the UK Government and airlines to fly home stranded British travellers.— Foreign Office 🇬🇧 (@foreignoffice) March 30, 2020
He later added: “This is a worrying time for many British citizens travelling abroad.
"We’ve already worked with airlines and governments to enable hundreds of thousands to return home on commercial flights, and we will keep as many of those options open as 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.”
The money has been provided to make the flights as cheap as possible, but people will still need to pay for their flights.
People have been urged to book their flights on these flights as soon as possible, and can do so through the foreign office website.
UPDATE: The UK Government and the airline industry to fly home stranded British travellers.— Foreign Office 🇬🇧 (@foreignoffice) March 30, 2020
➡️ Read our guidance: https://t.co/fX28Rj5pNk
➡️ Follow @FCOTravel for country updates#coronavirus | #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/W5k28aqSkz
Priority booking will be given to the elderly and those with medical condition.
He said "hundreds of thousands" of British people abroad have already returned home, but a great deal of others have still be unable to travel back.
But Mr Raab admitted "we've got a lot more to do" to ensure every British citizen gets home safely.
So far, 150,000 British nationals are back from Spain, 8,500 from Morocco, and 5,000 from Cyprus.
Secretary of State for Transport, Grant Shapps said: “This is a very difficult time for British Citizens travelling overseas, or those with families and loved ones abroad, which is why we are doing everything we can to ensure airlines can operate and bring people back home safely.”
Alastair Willson, Managing Director of Titan Airways said: “As a proud British company, we stand ready to work with the government to do all we can to bring stranded British travellers home.”
Mr Raab took to the podium after Prime Minister Boris Johnson was diagnosed with Covid-19 last week.
The Health Secretary Matt Hancock has also tested positive and is in self-isolation.
In terms of the spread of coronavirus in the UK, Government's Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said we on a similar trajectory to France - which has more than 40,000 recorded cases - but is behind that of Italy and Spain.
He added: "The measures that have been taken are having very big effects on contacts...it's important we do this now to get the numbers below NHS intensive care unit capacity."
"Once we know this curve is below the ICU capacity, and stable, then of course it's time to start asking the question which is being asked across the world at the moment - how do we release those measures and manage this going forward."
He said it is "premature" to put an "absolute time" on how long the measures will be in place.