Travel industry faces quarantine crisis: transport firms axe services

Travel industry faces quarantine crisis: Airlines, Eurostar and ferry companies slash services after wave of cancellations in the wake of France being taken off safe list

  • EasyJet confirm it will close its bases in Stansted, Southend and Newcastle 
  • Ryanair will reduce its flight capacity for 20 per cent in September and October
  • Eurostar have also reduced journeys to Paris by a fifth due to a lack of demand
  • Brittany Ferries say ‘tough decisions’ to be taken on what routes should still run
  • Flight bookings have dropped in the last 10 days due to Covid-19 ‘uncertainty’ 
  • Cuts will reduce number of flights to the likes of France, Spain and Sweden
  • One travel expert told MailOnline the government should axe quarantine, asking ‘How many jobs need to go before they realise how much damage this is doing?’

The travel industry has today been plunged further into crisis as transport firms announced they have slashed capacity and routes due to a drop in demand.

Budget airline easyJet axed bases in Stansted, Southend and Newcastle in a cost-cutting drive – as Ryanair grounded flight capacity by a fifth. 

Meanwhile Brittany Ferries, which run 12 ships between France, the UK, Ireland and Spain, said ‘tough decisions’ had to be taken on what routes should still run.

It comes after the ferry firm 35,000 of its passengers either cancel or move their reservations over the weekend – with many changing their reservations to next year. 

Eurostar has also reduced its journeys to Paris by a fifth due to a lack of demand from potential passengers.

The numbers of paying seats on plane, trains and boats have plummeted in line with the Government’s ever-changing list of countries that need visitors to quarantine for two weeks when they return home.

Paul Charles, the chief executive of the PC Agency travel consultancy, told MailOnline: ‘The government’s quarantine policy is scarring the UK economy now and the dogged pursuit of that policy is hurting the travel sector. It’s causing anxiety among consumers. 

Ryanair will be stopping some of its flights to the likes of Spain, Sweden and France in September and October, after noticing a downturn in the number of bookings 

Eurostar said it was tweaking its timetable from eight to six trips a day to Paris as demand fell

Brittany Ferries have also said it is going to look at ‘tough decisions’ on what routes to keep

The government has been putting countries onto quarantine lists over infection rates

‘It’s hurting companies like airlines and Eurostar and it’s saying to companies around the world that Britain is closed for business

‘We can’t continue with this highly damaging policy that is hurting the economy.

‘The government needs to invest more in testing. They have got to abandon the quarantine measure in their current form.

‘How many jobs need to go before they realise how much damage this is doing?’

EasyJet confirmed it would close its bases in Stansted, Southend and Newcastle, which currently have 670 members of staff.

Chief executive Johan Lundgren said: ‘We have had to take the very difficult decision to close three UK bases as a result of the unprecedented impact of the pandemic and related travel restrictions, compounded by quarantine measures in the UK which is impacting demand for travel.

‘I know this is a very difficult time for our pilots and crew and I would like to thank them for their continued professionalism.’

Elsewhere Ryanair will slash flight capacity by a fifth over the next two months as bookings slump over fears passengers will have to quarantine for 14 days, depending on where they go on holiday.

The budget airline has said the number of passengers booking flights has dropped in the past 10 days, due to ‘uncertainty over recent Covid case rates in some EU countries’.

The cuts will reduce the frequency of flights from countries such as Spain, France and Sweden, it said.

Greece has seen a rise in new cases – from 202 last week to 226 yesterday – while Croatia has now gone above the UK Government’s quarantine benchmark of 20 cases per 100,000 people in a seven-day period. The graph shows the number of cases being diagnosed per million people every day – not per 100,000 people every week

Data shows that France is still recording significantly more coronavirus cases each day than other nations on the quarantine list – but it is home to six times more people than Greece

EU figures showed the Greek infection rate had quadrupled in two weeks, soaring past the benchmark of 20 Covid cases per 100,000 people

A Ryanair spokesman said: ‘These capacity cuts and frequency reductions for the months of September and October are unavoidable given the recent weakness in forward bookings due to Covid restrictions in a number of EU countries.’     

Passengers who have been impacted by the change are expected to receive emails today.

Christophe Mathieu, chief executive of Brittany Ferries said there could be cuts to the boat service.

He said: ‘Unfortunately, weak forward demand for the autumn means we may have to make some tough decisions about which services we run and which we don’t in the months to come. That is the reality of our difficult decisions.’

Italy closes nightclubs for three weeks and orders masks to be worn in public at night

Italy is to shut discos and clubs for three weeks and make it compulsory to wear a mask outdoors in some areas at night after an increase in new Covid-19 cases.

The new rules mark the first reimposition of coronavirus restrictions as cases pick up across the country, especially among younger people.

New cases in the past week in Italy, the first European country to be hit hard by the coronavirus, were more than double those registered three weeks ago and the median age of people contracting the virus has dropped below 40, data showed.

The new rules will start on Monday – two days after an Italian holiday when many young Italians go out dancing – and will run until early September.

Masks will be required between 6pm and 6am in areas close to bars and pubs and where gatherings are more likely.

The passenger ferry firm, which operates out of Portsmouth and Plymouth, says it has seen 35,000 of its passengers either cancel or move their reservations over the weekend – with many changing their reservations to next year.  

Mr Mathieu said: ‘Over the weekend around 35,000 passengers booked with us in the immediate future either cancelled or moved their reservations.

‘The good news is that many of those moved to next year.

‘In terms of those travelling to France this weekend, around half of those who were originally booked travelled.’

Eurostar said in light of a reduction in current demand it was cutting services to Paris from eight journeys a day to just six.

A spokesman said: ‘We have been tweaking timetable since March. If demand changes we will tweak the timetable on that.’  

News of the slash in capacity comes just hours after Jet2 announced it was making 102 pilots redundant and Easyjet declared it was closing its bases at Stansted, Southend and Newcastle, putting up to 670 jobs at risk.

Last month the operator cut holidays short amid quarantine measures resuming for countries such as Spain. 

Flights back to the UK were cancelled and passengers were asked to return sooner than planned.

The move was described as a ‘kick in the teeth,’ by pilots union Balpa, as many Jet2 workers had joined from Thomas Cook after the airline went bust.

Planes were largely grounded from the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic and quarantine measures have made it a slow start for the aviation industry’s recovery.

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has previously said the pandemic has caused firms to suffer the ‘worst downturn we have ever had in our 100-year industry’.

Further outbreaks in Europe have dealt a blow to hopes the summer holidays would be a chance to recover.

A Ryanair spokesman said today: ‘Over the past two weeks, as a number of EU countries have raised travel restrictions, forward bookings, especially for business travel into September and October, have been negatively affected, and it makes sense to reduce frequencies so that we tailor our capacity to demand over the next two months.’

Ryanair also said it is reducing flight numbers due to Ireland’s Green List travel guidance, which includes 14-day quarantine for visitors from most other EU countries.

The spokesman added: ‘We again call on the Irish Government to amend its Green List of travel counties to include those EU countries with lower or similar 14-day Covid case rates, most notably Germany whose Covid case rate is 25% lower than Ireland, and which will allow for some resumption of normal business and economic travel in September and October.’

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has said aviation firms have suffered the ‘worst downturn we have ever had in our 100-year industry’

Jet2 is set to make 102 pilots redundant after quarantine measures and lockdown dealt a heavy blow to the aviation industry

Brian Strutton, general secretary of Balpa, called for greater support of the aviation industry from the UK government, should quarantine measures continue. 

He said: ‘The Government has a significant role to play in supporting the vital British aviation industry. Its quarantine changes keep throwing every restart plan into chaos. 

‘If these quarantines are really needed the Government must stump up the support to help the airline industry which is doing its best to get back on track but keeps being knocked back at every juncture.’ 

Today’s travel blow come as Britons face a desperate scramble to get home from Greece and Croatia as fears continue to grow that the European nations could be added to the quarantine ‘red list’ within days.  

Greece has seen a significant rise in the number of new cases – from 202 last week to 226 yesterday – while Croatia has now gone above the UK Government’s quarantine benchmark of 20 cases per 100,000 people in a seven-day period. 

Ministers are being urged to replace the disastrous 14-day quarantine system with a ‘game-changer’ virus test at airports, before more countries are put on the red list.        

Other holiday destinations could also be added if – like Spain and France – they have a sudden second spike in infections that catches travellers unawares.

An estimated 500,000 raced to return home from France before the 4am Saturday deadline for quarantine that was announced barely 30 hours earlier.

Ministers had previously encouraged people to take holidays to places such as Spain and France as part of a return to normal life.

But hundreds of thousands of travellers were then caught out when the rules changed while they were away, requiring a 14-day quarantine on their return.

Suggestions that Greece and Turkey might be added to the red list have been rejected by travel industry experts. However, such reports have created further confusion, which has hit bookings.

There are also hopes that Portugal, where infection rates are falling, could be removed from the red list this week.

But Croatia has now gone above the UK Government’s quarantine benchmark of 20 cases per 100,000 people in a seven-day period at 21.5. 

Other nations such as Denmark and Switzerland are also perilously close to reaching that limit.

We made it back with 2 mins to go 

Relieved Bernard Rust and his partner Sarah Holloway barely beat the clock – with their car rolling off a ferry at Newhaven with a mere two minutes to spare.

Financial adviser Mr Rust, 60, who had stayed in La Rochelle for a week, said it was fortunate that he was already booked to return on the ferry from Dieppe due back in the nick of time.

It arrived so he could drive off at 3.58am.

Bernard Rust and his partner Sarah Holloway made it back from France with a mere two minutes to spare

‘We knew it was scheduled to get back at 4am but what if we were delayed by a minute?’ he told the Mail on Sunday.

‘I called the Government’s Covid hotline and asked them what does being in the UK mean – does it mean being in UK waters? They said it means when I’m in the UK region. They didn’t seem to have a satisfactory answer and they didn’t put our minds at ease.’

Mr Rust, from East Sussex, called up other ferry firms to try to get an earlier crossing but found that they were fully booked.

It left him with no choice but to go ahead with his booking – and keep his fingers crossed.

‘Normally I try and get a couple of hours’ sleep, but there was no chance,’ he said after reaching Britain just in time.

‘I kept going up to the top deck to see if I could see land and finally I could see Newhaven harbour at 3.30am.

‘I thought, ‘Blimey, we’re going to make it’.’

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