UK coronavirus lockdown: Heathrow's departure lounges are PACKED

Escape from Britain: Heathrow’s departure lounges are PACKED at 6am as thousands wait to jet out of UK before second lockdown descends

  • Expats are at airports escaping Britain before the new coronavirus lockdown comes in tomorrow 
  • Travel experts say elderly tourists and people who can work from home are also looking to get out 
  • Bookings boomed after the Government announced holidays would be banned until December 2
  • ** Are you fleeing Britain before the lockdown comes in? Please send your pictures to: [email protected] ** 

London Heathrow Airport was busy this morning with travellers rushing to leave Britain on last-minute flights before the new national lockdown comes in place tomorrow.

Photographs showed queues at Terminal Five as early as 6am as expats escape the UK, with travel experts saying elderly tourists and people who can work from home are also looking to get out before the new restrictions.

Bookings have boomed after the Government announced holidays in England and abroad would be banned from November 5 until December 2. Foreign nationals entering the UK are allowed provided they follow lockdown rules. 

Queues for flights at London Heathrow Airport Terminal Five this morning as travellers prepare to leave Britain

Passengers sit in waiting areas at London Heathrow Airport early this morning as they prepare to leave the country

Passengers at Heathrow Airport are having to follow social distancing rules with markers laid out on seating areas

It comes as holidaymakers face another month of chaos under new lockdown laws that will ban most travel from tomorrow, less than a week after restrictions were lifted on several holiday destinations, including the Maldives.

Bookings to the islands soared by 469 per cent after the Government said Britons would no longer have to self-isolate after returning, but hopes of winter sun have now been dashed until after the new lockdown ends.

The Government has not released full details on what trips will be allowed from tomorrow, although travel for work and education should be. If a plane takes off passengers will not be automatically entitled to a cash refund.

On Monday, Ryanair’s chief executive Michael O’Leary, confirmed that if a passenger’s flight was operating they would not be eligible for a refund — but they could move their booking to another date for free. 

Passengers sitting on social distancing benches at London Heathrow Airport Terminal Five early this morning

Passengers stand with their luggage in queues as they wait to check in for flights at London Heathrow Airport this morning

Passengers sitting in social distancing benches as Heathrow Airport Terminal Five is busy with travellers this morning

British Airways says passengers can change their flights for another date in the next 12 months without incurring a booking fee, or take a voucher valid until April 30, 2022. 

Virgin Atlantic customers due to fly before September 2021 can book a new departure date up to December 31, 2022, fee-free. TUI says all customers flying from England and Wales over lockdown will get an automatic refund.

Those flying from Scotland can amend their bookings for free up to 21 days before departure. However, those who do reschedule a trip with an airline face having to pay more if their new booking is more expensive.

Meanwhile, Heathrow has launched a legal challenge against the decision to end duty-free bargains on perfume, clothing and electronics – arguing the move will cost the country billions. 

Air passengers queue up with their luggage at London Heathrow Airport Terminal Five this morning

Travellers at London Heathrow today are preparing to leave the United Kingdom before the new Covid lockdown begins

They add that it will intensify the crisis facing the battered aviation and retail industries. The Treasury has said that, as of January 1, tax savings on goods bought by outbound holidaymakers and business travellers will apply only to alcohol and tobacco.

Ministers are also abolishing the VAT rebate scheme for tourists as part of the move. The planned changes will leave the UK as the only country in the developed world to not offer tax-free shopping to travellers.

The bosses of WHSmith, Boots, Fortnum & Mason and Dixons are among business chiefs opposing the plans, warning it will trigger a £10billion reduction in spending in shops. 

And the abolition of the VAT rebate scheme is expected to cost the Exchequer £2billion in lost tax revenue. Heathrow has now launched a Judicial Review of the Chancellor’s decision – the first time it has embarked on a legal challenge against the Government. 

** Are you fleeing Britain before the lockdown comes in? Please send your pictures to: [email protected] ** 

What to do if your holiday plans are in ruins… again: Are you due a refund? Should you take a voucher? And dare you risk re-booking? 

Can I get a cash refund?

If your flight or package holiday is cancelled, you are legally entitled to a full cash refund.

If you have booked a package holiday, you should receive this within 14 days. For flights it is seven days. But with firms being inundated with refund requests, you may have to wait longer.

Getting a refund for a non-package hotel booking can be trickier but you should argue that you deserve your money back if the company cannot provide the service.

Will my trip still go ahead?

The Government has not released full details on what trips will be allowed, although travel for work and education should be.

Not all flights will be cancelled, and if your plane takes off – even if you are not on it because of lockdown – you will not be automatically entitled to a cash refund.

On Monday, Ryanair’s chief executive Michael O’Leary, confirmed that if a passenger’s flight was operating they would not be eligible for a refund — but they could move their booking to another date for free.

British Airways says passengers can change their flights for another date in the next 12 months without incurring a booking fee, or take a voucher valid until April 30, 2022.

Virgin Atlantic customers due to fly before September 2021 can book a new departure date up to December 31, 2022, fee-free.

TUI says all customers flying from England and Wales over lockdown will get an automatic refund because the flights are now cancelled.

Those flying from Scotland can amend their bookings for free up to 21 days before departure.

However, if you do reschedule a trip with an airline, you may have to pay more if your new booking is more expensive.

Should I come home early?

If you are already on holiday, there is no law which requires you to rush home. But you should contact your travel operator or airline because you may need to take an earlier flight if they are running fewer services.

In August, Jet2 cut hundreds of holidays to the Balearic and Canary Islands short and refunded customers for unused nights.

However, if your travel firm insists that you travel back earlier and refuses to refund the difference, you could make a civil legal claim for ‘frustration of contract’.

Could I cancel my holiday?

Wait for your airline or tour operator to cancel your flight, even if you know you won’t be able to travel.

However, if you don’t hear anything and your holiday is a few days away, contact the airline.

If you cancel your trip yourself, you will lose the right to an automatic cash refund and your insurer may not pay out.

What about staycations?

The Competition & Markets Authority says that if a contract cannot be fulfilled because of lockdown laws, it would expect the customer to receive a full refund in most cases. This could apply to staycations in hotels.

However, this does not mean you will be automatically entitled to a refund — and some hotels may instead offer vouchers or the chance to reschedule.

And what if the firm goes bust?

Airline regulator the Civil Aviation Authority has confirmed that any refund credit notes (RCNs) for cancelled holidays up until December 31 will be protected under its Air Travel Organiser’s Licence scheme (ATOL).

This means you will get your money back, even if the travel company or airline goes bust. You will only be able to get an RCN if your holiday or flight was ATOL-protected.

Travel Association ABTA offers similar protection for RCNs for package holidays that do not include flights.

Will insurers pay out?

Many insurers have made changes to their policies that mean they will not pay claims for trips which cannot go ahead owing to lockdown, so check the small print.

Allianz Assistance will not pay out if holidays are cancelled because of restrictions imposed by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.

Aviva will pay out if they there were no UK or local restriction guidelines that would have prevented your holiday at the time of booking or when you bought the policy — whichever is later.

And Nationwide will pay out as long as there were no restrictions on travelling to your destination when you booked.

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