The UK Government is to start repatriation flights this week for the ‘tens of thousands’ of Brits still overseas who are unable to get home because borders have been closed and flights suspended due to coronavirus.
The flights, amounting to £75m, were announced by Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab on Monday, during the Government’s daily briefing on coronavirus.
Up to one million Britons are throught to be stranded abroad as airlines halt flights and countries shut borders.
Travellers will be allowed to use different carriers or fly on different days, under an agreement thrashed out between the Government and airlines.
Raab said: “We have not seen challenges on this scale in recent memory,” adding: “International collaboration is vital.”
He added: “On March 17, we advised people against all non-essential travel. Since March 23, we advised that UK residents should return home.
“Many travellers haven’t yet managed to get back home.
“I want to assure them that this government is working around the clock to support and help travellers to get home.
“We are working with airlines to keep as many routes open as much as possible. Our first priority is to keep as many commercial flights going.
“I can announce a new arrangement between Government and the airlines to fly an additional tens of thousands of stranded passengers.”
He said BA, Virgin, easyJet, Jet2, Titan Airways and others are taking part in the repatriation flights, adding ‘the list can be extended’.
“We will target flights from a range of countries, starting from this week.
“Where commercial routes remain an option, airlines will be responsible for getting people home.
“Where commercial flights are no longer running, the Government will provide special flights. In arranging these flights, our priority will be the most vulnerable and countries with the largest amount of British nationals needing to get home.”
He said passengers will pay for the flights through ‘a dedicated travel management company’, CTM.
When availabilty comes up for a flight, embassies and missions around the world will alert any British national in their country wanting to come home.
UK travellers should check Foreign Office advice and also follow the social media posts of the embassy or high commission in the country where they currently are.