Coronavirus UK: How defiant Britons are still jetting off to Portugal


Defiant British holidaymakers continued to fly out to Portugal today less than four days before the country is set to be removed from the UK’s travel ‘green list’.  

Tourists leaving London Gatwick Airport today said the announcement had ‘put a real dampener on the trip’ but added that they would ‘still try to enjoy ourselves’.

Others said they ‘just want to get away – nothing is going to stop us’, with some changing flights to arrive home before the change is activated on Tuesday at 4am. 

At Gatwick today, an easyJet flight left for Faro at 8.30am, with those travelling on it expressing their disgust at having to pay for extra Covid tests and then quarantine for ten days at the end of their holiday after Portugal moves to the amber list.

One couple said the extra costs for a two and eight day test and a third test to leave quarantine after five days had amounted to £1,200 – more than double the cost of their return flight to Faro.

At Gatwick today - Friends Amy and Jade booked their £180 return flights to Faro on Wednesday - then 24 hours later had the grim news they must quarantine on their return and pay up to £400 each for Covid testing

At Gatwick today – Friends Amy and Jade booked their £180 return flights to Faro on Wednesday – then 24 hours later had the grim news they must quarantine on their return and pay up to £400 each for Covid testing

David Roper said: ‘I am absolutely disgusted with what the Government has done. How can they tell us it is safe to travel, then three weeks later remove Portugal from the green list?

‘With the PCR test we took to get the flight and all the other tests we now have to pay for on return it’s added £1,200 to the cost. The fares were not cheap but it is ridiculous.’

Mr Roper and his wife Lydia, from Barnes, South West London, were flying to the Algarve for an eight-day break. Many others on the flight were going to second homes in Portugal.

EasyJet staff at Gatwick’s North Terminal said the early morning flight was ‘not as busy as usual’.

‘Usually every seat would be booked, but people are just not travelling and the terminal is so quiet’ said a member of the check-in team.

‘It’s devastating for us as we just want to see people flying. If there are no flights out jobs are at risk. The Government seem intent on destroying our industry I feel sick every time they make an announcement about travel’.

At Gatwick today, Essex couple Josh and Sophie said they were resigned to paying hundreds of pounds for Covid tests having already paid £700 for their EasyJet flights. As Josh works from home he will be able to quarantine without paying extra to be released after five days. Having waited so long for a family holiday with daughter Harriet, they were not going to let anything put them off

At Gatwick today, Essex couple Josh and Sophie said they were resigned to paying hundreds of pounds for Covid tests having already paid £700 for their EasyJet flights. As Josh works from home he will be able to quarantine without paying extra to be released after five days. Having waited so long for a family holiday with daughter Harriet, they were not going to let anything put them off

At Gatwick today, Essex couple Josh and Sophie said they were resigned to paying hundreds of pounds for Covid tests having already paid £700 for their EasyJet flights. As Josh works from home he will be able to quarantine without paying extra to be released after five days. Having waited so long for a family holiday with daughter Harriet, they were not going to let anything put them off 

Others on the Faro flight blamed the Government’s U-turn on Chelsea and Manchester City fans who attended the Champions League final in Porto and were seen drinking and celebrating with no masks or social distancing.

Holiday HELL for 112,000 Britons left with four days to flee Portugal to avoid quarantine as flights home soar to £700 EACH with family-of-four suddenly facing £1,600 testing bill after nation was stripped off ‘green list’ 

Seats on the last flights back to London from the Algarve before Portugal is removed from the UK’s green list in less than four days’ time were on sale for up to £711 today as Britons faced a race to get home. 

Britons keen to stay abroad for as long as they can before the new rules come in next Tuesday at 4am face paying at least £258 if they fly back home the night before. That is the cheapest flight next Monday, a Wizz Air route leaving Faro at 9.05pm local time and arriving at London Luton at 11.50pm, four hours before the rules change.

Anyone flying back today faces paying at least £99, also for a Wizz Air flight to Luton; while it is £91 on Saturday or £172 on Sunday, both for easyJet services to Gatwick. The most expensive seats before Tuesday’s deadline can be found for £711 on a British Airways service from Faro to London City, leaving next Monday at 11am. 

Those returning from an amber list country will be required either to quarantine at home for ten days on their return and take a PCR test on days two and eight, as well as a lateral flow test before the return flight. Or they can pay for an additional third ‘Test to Release’ on day five to end self-isolation early. They will still need to take the compulsory second test on or after day eight.

British families of four in Portugal now face having to pay £1,500 to buy three sets of PCR tests at £125 each, if they go under the ‘Test to Release’ scheme. Adding this to the cost of a lateral flow test, which can be bought at Faro Airport for €30 (£25), the total cost of tests for a family of four would be about £1,600. 

Holidays to Portugal have been thrown into chaos after ministers removed it from the green list amid concerns over the new Nepal Covid variant. The move triggered a furious diplomatic row, with Portugal’s president accusing UK ministers of ‘health fundamentalism’ and of being ‘obsessed’ with infection rates.

‘This is down to the football lot,’ said one irate passenger. ‘I now have to pay for the test to get out of quarantine after five days as I cannot afford to be off work for 10 days.

‘Boris Johnson has got something right with the vaccines, but to keep chopping and changing what places we can go is madness. They either ban all travel or let people go away and know in advance have to quarantine on their return.

‘It was too late to change my booking as I would have lost out. It’s put me in a bad mood before I’ve even left’.

Friends Amy and Jade booked their £180 return flights to Faro on Wednesday – then 24 hours later had the grim news they must quarantine on their return and pay up to £400 each for Covid testing.

It means their five day trip to the popular resort of Albuferiao has worked out twice as expensive as they planned.

Amy said: ‘It’s put a real dampener on the trip, but we will still try to enjoy ourselves. We booked at the last minute on Wednesday, then the following day we found out Portugal is no longer on the green list. I just think it’s unfair.’

Jade added: ‘We have already paid £200 for a PCR test to get the result on the same day. It’s really annoying that we have to find more money for tests’

Kathy Kirby had to pay a £99 change fee to return from her trip a day early and avoid the quarantine rule.

She said: ‘I had been planning to fly back Wednesday, but changed my flight to arrive a day early. The change will affect lots of people but nothing surprises me when it comes to this Government.’

Essex couple Josh and Sophie said they were resigned to paying hundreds of pounds for Covid tests having already paid £700 for their easyJet flights.

As Josh works from home he will be able to quarantine without paying extra to be released after five days. Having waited so long for a family holiday with daughter Harriet, they were not going to let anything put them off.

Sophie said: ‘We just want to get away. We have waited over a year for a holiday with our daughter Harriet and nothing is going to stop us.’ Josh added: ‘It is what it is. I work from home so can do the quarantine.’

Retired couple Desmond and Isabella Weal raged at the ‘incompetence’ of the Government’s handling of travel.

‘They really seem clueless and it does not make sense’ said the 68-year-olds heading to Alvor. ‘We are told it’s all because of the Nepal variant but I read there was just one case in Portugal.

‘It’s is crazy to tell people they can go on holiday, then say it’s not safe. I read there are 3,000 variants. When will this Government finally say we have to live with Covid and stop chopping and changing what we can and cannot do.’

At Stansted Airport this morning, Britons could not understand why transport chiefs changed their minds and said the system was failing.

Friends Esther-Leah Cohen, Judy Liebert, Tamar Smith and Ellie Sharer were arriving back at the airport after a girls’ holiday in Porto.

Students (from left) Esther-Leah Cohen, Judy Liebert, Tamar Smith and Ellie Sharer who have returned to London Stansted Airport from a holiday in Porto, Portugal

Students (from left) Esther-Leah Cohen, Judy Liebert, Tamar Smith and Ellie Sharer who have returned to London Stansted Airport from a holiday in Porto, Portugal

Students (from left) Esther-Leah Cohen, Judy Liebert, Tamar Smith and Ellie Sharer who have returned to London Stansted Airport from a holiday in Porto, Portugal

The 21-year-old students did not have to rush back but said their Air BnB host had been hit with a string of cancellations from Brits.

Kathy Kirby, pictured at Gatwick today, had to pay a £99 change fee to return from her trip a day early and avoid the quarantine rule

Kathy Kirby, pictured at Gatwick today, had to pay a £99 change fee to return from her trip a day early and avoid the quarantine rule

Kathy Kirby, pictured at Gatwick today, had to pay a £99 change fee to return from her trip a day early and avoid the quarantine rule

Miss Liebert said: ‘They are quite upset with that; I think they thought it was back to normal now. They really feel it is unfair as there are so few cases there, he thinks there are 50 there now.

‘They wear masks outside there, we got told off quite a few times.

Miss Smith added: ‘I’m not keen on the way they change the status, I don’t think it is fair on businesses that rely on tourists.

‘Also for Brits that need to go on holiday, people have been looking forward to this for a year. I’ll be more cautious going away, we have already had a holiday cancelled before this.

‘I thought that would be it it’d be green for ever. The tests didn’t seem that good, they didn’t even zoom in on the photos, I said we could have waved our GCSE results and it’d be fine.’

Their concerns were echoed by Josh Clements, 29, who had arrived back to London with his partner. The Londoner almost couldn’t board his flight due to a government computer bungle.

Karen Beddow (pictured with her husband Matthew and daughters Lily, Isobel and Eve) said she felt let down after being forced to cut her family holiday to Portugal short in order to avoid quarantine on return to the UK

Karen Beddow (pictured with her husband Matthew and daughters Lily, Isobel and Eve) said she felt let down after being forced to cut her family holiday to Portugal short in order to avoid quarantine on return to the UK

Karen Beddow (pictured with her husband Matthew and daughters Lily, Isobel and Eve) said she felt let down after being forced to cut her family holiday to Portugal short in order to avoid quarantine on return to the UK

‘No one looked at our negative tests, no one looked at our lateral flow tests, no one looked at our PCR test,’ he said.

Having cancelled a family holiday to Portugal last year, Laura Wolfe faces more disappointment

Having cancelled a family holiday to Portugal last year, Laura Wolfe faces more disappointment

Having cancelled a family holiday to Portugal last year, Laura Wolfe faces more disappointment

‘We almost couldn’t fly back as they wouldn’t let us on the plane as we couldn’t fill out our passenger locater form, we couldn’t do it because they wanted a booking reference number.

‘They sent us an order confirmation rather than a booking reference and the government website wouldn’t let us through. It was super stressful, they were saying we couldn’t get on the plane even though we had the test.

‘In the end we had to make up a reference number to fly home and no one looked at it, it was just like a quick glance. Last night we were up until 2am to get a lateral flow test.

‘There was someone else at the hotel with the same issue as us, but no one was trying to beat the rush for Tuesday. We didn’t see many British tourists.’

He added: ‘No one checked it you could flash any old piece of paper, we were so worried about not getting on the flight. No one looked at mine, it was just box ticking.’

Andre Ferreira, 28, had returned home after seeing family for the first time in Portugal since the pandemic erupted with his partner Vanya Binho, 27.

Josh Clements, 29, who arrived back to London Stansted with his partner today after a holiday in Portugal, almost couldn't board his flight due to a government computer bungle

Josh Clements, 29, who arrived back to London Stansted with his partner today after a holiday in Portugal, almost couldn't board his flight due to a government computer bungle

Josh Clements, 29, who arrived back to London Stansted with his partner today after a holiday in Portugal, almost couldn’t board his flight due to a government computer bungle

He said: ‘What is the point of it changing after the Champions League?! We just came back to the UK we are Portuguese citizens. It doesn’t make any sense to us at all, after all the British citizens went there.

Thomas Hall, 21, from Southport who is on his way to Portugal for a week from Manchester Airport

Thomas Hall, 21, from Southport who is on his way to Portugal for a week from Manchester Airport

Thomas Hall, 21, from Southport who is on his way to Portugal for a week from Manchester Airport

‘The cases are not rising because of the flights or anything, even in the UK all the cases are increasing every day. I think it could have been handled better in Portugal and England too, it is all about politicians. Luckily we had booked the flight today or we would have been mad.

‘This is the first time I have been home since the pandemic started, it is what it is that I can’t see family due to the change. It was our choice to come to the UK to have a better life, but it is tough on the family.’

Nikhil Rai, 25, a city business analyst who lives in a skyscraper apartment at Canary Wharf, was one of those disappointed Britons who cancelled their trips to Portugal today.

He said: ‘I was going to a music festival near Faro with one of my cousins when suddenly Portugal was put on the Amber list.

‘I was aware before they’re going to Portugal was no easy exercise as one of my relatives was at the European champions final in Porto last weekend and told me how difficult things were.

Thomas Hall's mother Sarah Hall is pictured at Manchester Airport today. She paid the extra cost of the day eight test for after he returns to Britain from his holiday in Portugal

Thomas Hall's mother Sarah Hall is pictured at Manchester Airport today. She paid the extra cost of the day eight test for after he returns to Britain from his holiday in Portugal

Thomas Hall’s mother Sarah Hall is pictured at Manchester Airport today. She paid the extra cost of the day eight test for after he returns to Britain from his holiday in Portugal

‘He said he had to have three PCR tests in total, filling in a complicated passenger locator form, and was grilled when he landed at Gatwick about his health and whether he’d booked all his PCR appointments and got negative covid results.

What tests do you need when returning from foreign countries? 

GREEN LIST

You will be required to take a lateral flow test within 72 hours of your return flight to England, followed by a PCR test on or before the second day of your return. You will not be required to self-isolate during this time.

The cost of a PCR test can be up to £125 each in Britain, while a lateral flow test taken abroad at Faro Airport, for example, is about €30 (£25).

When arriving in the foreign country, you may also need to need provide proof of a negative PCR taken within 72 hours of your outbound flight, or proof of vaccination, depending on the destination’s requirements.

AMBER LIST

You will be required either to quarantine at home for ten days on your return and take a PCR test on days two and eight, as well as a lateral flow test before the return flight.

Or you can pay for an additional third ‘Test to Release’ on day five to end self-isolation early. You will still need to take the compulsory second test on or after day eight.

British families of four in Portugal now face having to pay £1,500 to buy three sets of PCR tests at £125 each, if they go under the ‘Test to Release’ scheme.

Adding this to the cost of a lateral flow test, which can be bought at Faro Airport for €30 (£25), the total cost for a family of four would be about £1,600.

RED LIST

If you travel to a red list country, or are in an amber country that turns red before you return, you would need to quarantine at a government-approved hotel on your return at a cost of £1,750.

Before you travel to England, you must take a PCR or lateral flow test and get a negative result during the three days before you travel.

You should also book a quarantine hotel package – including two further tests for when you are in the hotel – and complete a passenger locator form.

‘It cost him £400 just to have those tests before during and after his trip to Porto. My cousin and I thought it was still worth going, just to have a break in the sunshine and see a live music festival.

‘The pandemic has worn me down and we just wanted to be allowed to be young guys again enjoying typical things like the beach, concerts and the sunshine. The hotel in Faro has been great and refunded our money. And the airline is going to keep our money, but give us credit so we can book again in the future.

‘I know it’s difficult for everyone, but this is a real hassle. It seems that everything is loaded against people going on holiday and I’m not happy about it, although I do understand people are nervous about Covid. I was really looking forward to a holiday in the sunshine, and it is particulary worse that it’s raining today in London.

‘My cousin Raj who is also 25 just graduated with an architecture degree and couldn’t even have a graduation ceremony at his university. So we thought we’d celebrate by having a few cocktails in the sunshine and listen to some great music. That’s all done now. Who knows when we’ll finally be able to have a holiday?

‘I feel sorry for those who are already out there and have to rush back today or this weekend. I wouldn’t want to spend 10 days in a hotel and fork out all that money.’ 

At Manchester Airport today, Thomas Hall, 22, was travelling to Albufeira, Portugal, with his girlfriend Ashley Henshall.

Mr Hall, from Southport, said: ‘I am not happy the government has put Portugal on the amber list but we are still going. We weren’t going to go because we couldn’t afford the extra cost of the day 8 test but my mum paid it for us.

‘I’m off work sick at the moment so self-isolating at home isn’t a problem for me. I’m just happy to get away for a week.’

His mother Sarah Hall, 47, said: ‘The Bank of Mum came to the rescue. If the government doesn’t think it’s safe, they should stop all holidays because that way everyone knows what they are doing.

‘I don’t think they should have opened up the green list in the first place because people will go. I won’t be going in any foreign holidays until this is all over.’

Britons rushing Back to beat the new quarantine rules over Portugal, were further frustrated today when they faced lengthy queues at Heathrow terminal two.

Passengers who arrived from Lisbon before 11am were still stuck in immigration queues amid Covid protocol checks more than an hour later.

Some passengers who arrived from Toronto and Tel Aviv waited up to three hours to pass through immigration.

 

Richard Gold, 44, from Hull was still waiting at noon in Heathrow’s Terminal 2 for his friend to emerge some two and a half hours after his flight arrived from Israel.

Nikhil Rai, 25, a city business analyst who lives in a skyscraper apartment at Canary Wharf was one of those disappointed Britons who cancelled their trips to Portugal today

Nikhil Rai, 25, a city business analyst who lives in a skyscraper apartment at Canary Wharf was one of those disappointed Britons who cancelled their trips to Portugal today

Nikhil Rai, 25, a city business analyst who lives in a skyscraper apartment at Canary Wharf was one of those disappointed Britons who cancelled their trips to Portugal today

He said:  ‘I have just spoken to him. He is very upset at the length of queues for passports to be checked. He just told me he could be another couple of hours. People are getting very fed up and tired around him.

‘He is nowhere near the front. It could be teatime before he gets through.’

Larry Petty of Chorley arrived from Amsterdam and added: ‘My flight landed at around 10:45 am.

‘The queues were incredibly long. I am a diabetic and I told the staff that I couldn’t stand there for hours and luckily they pushed me to the front. I really feel sorry for those of the back. They’re not going to be out for hours and hours.’

A woman who arrived from Toronto at breakfast time emerged at around 11:30 am and added: ‘You Brits need to sort this out. I was at the front of the plane and got off first and it still took me three hours.

‘This wasn’t the type of welcome that I was expecting from London.’

Karen Beddow said she felt let down after being forced to cut her family holiday to Portugal short in order to avoid quarantine on return to the UK.

The terminal two arrivals hall at London Heathrow Airport today as Britons return to the UK

The terminal two arrivals hall at London Heathrow Airport today as Britons return to the UK

The terminal two arrivals hall at London Heathrow Airport today as Britons return to the UK

She had travelled to a villa in the Algarve with her husband Matthew, their three daughters and her parents last month. 

Mrs Beddow, 43, from the Wirral, said the family was due to fly back to the UK on Tuesday just hours after the new ‘amber list’ restrictions take effect.

Faced with the prospect of additional testing and quarantine, and fearing Portugal was likely to go on the list, she scrambled to rearrange the flights to Sunday before the official announcement was made yesterday.

Although able to change the Easyjet flights for her immediate family for free, her parents faced a sizeable fee to make the changes. 

Mrs Beddow said the family also had to rearrange pre-booked Covid tests to be taken on their return to the UK in line with Government rules.

She said: ‘We cut our holiday short by two days which I actually feel really annoyed about. Not because of us but because my parents decided to change their flights as well.

‘I feel really let down because the whole thing about this green list was to give people certainty. We were told there would be three weeks’ notice.

‘Obviously, what they actually mean is three weeks’ notice of countries coming on the list, not coming off. I certainly felt that if we went away we could have two weeks and have a window. If they are going to change flights at will that just feels wrong.

‘It’s all very stressful having to fix this as well. We had an afternoon of faffing and sorting out.’

Mrs Beddow, a travel blogger, and her husband, a 47-year-old property developer, spent £665 on travel tests for the couple and their three daughters.

The holidaymaker, who runs a travel blog at minitravellers.co.uk, said that she felt ‘lucky to have made it to Portugal at all’. 

Cheapest single flights from Faro to London 

  • Today — £99 (Wizz Air to London Luton, 22:05)
  • Tomorrow — £91 (EasyJet to London Gatwick, 22:15)
  • Sunday — £172 (EasyJet to London Gatwick, 13:25)
  • Monday — £258 (Wizz Air to London Luton, 21:05)

 Prices checked at 7am on Skyscanner

Having cancelled a family holiday to Portugal last year, Laura Wolfe also faces more disappointment.

Her two-week trip to the Algarve with her partner Daniel and sons, aged ten and 16, is now in doubt.

Miss Wolfe, said the Government’s decision to change the travel status of the country was ‘a complete fiasco’. She said: ‘Part of us is thinking we might just go. We have saved up and are in a position to do it. And we just love it there.

‘But the issue is with the rules, which seem to be changing all of the time, the quarantine and the costs of the testing for four of us.

‘If we do say ‘sod it’ and go, what then happens if the country is placed on the red list?

‘The trip isn’t for another eight weeks so things could change several times before then.’

Although the £6,000 holiday is refundable, the events and marketing worker, from Manchester, said the possibility of cancelling has provoked a lot of anxiety.

Miss Wolfe has had both Covid jabs and her partner is about to get his second. ‘I thought this was part of why we were doing it,’ she said.

‘I know there are a lot of unknowns but if I am double-vaccinated and test negative, how can it not be OK for me to go away?’



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