Government announces £75m to bring stranded Britons home

 

The Government has announced a £75m package to help Britons stranded as a result of the coronavirus return home.

Addressing the nation, foreign secretary Dominic Raab revealed that where commercial flights were no longer running, the Government would charter special flights to help ensure UK residents could return.

”Local

Outlining the scale of the challenge, Mr Raab said that since the start of the crisis, the UK government had been faced with bringing back home hundreds of thousands of people travelling around the world.

So far, the Government had ensured that around 150,000 UK nationals had returned from Spain, 8,500 Morocco and 5,000 from Cyprus.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is working with other governments, focusing on transit hubs, and working with airlines to keep as many flights operating as possible, with a priority to keep as many commercial flights as possible running.

Mr Raab said the Government has dedicated £75m to chartering special flights to bring UK nationals home where commercial flights are no longer running.

He said: 'I can announce a new arrangement between Government and airlines to fly home tens of thousands of stranded passengers back home where commercial flights are no longer possible; working with airlines partners including British Airways, Virgin, Easyjet, Jet2 and Titan - and this list can be expanded.

'Once special chartered flights have been arranged we will promote them through UK government travel advice and through the embassy or high commission in the relevant country. We will target flights from a range of priority countries from this week.'

These flights will be booked and ticketed centrally, through a Government-procured travel management company.

He added that where commercial routes remain an option, airlines will be responsible for getting people home, which means offering alternative flights at little to no cost where routes have been cancelled and allowing passengers to change tickets including between carriers.

'Those still in countries where commercial flights are possible, don't wait; don't run the risk of being stranded. Book your tickets as soon as possible,' he said.

The special charter flights will operate on a strict cost recovery basis paid by the taxpayer. All the fares will be at an affordable level determined by the FCO. The FCO will offer those genuinely unable to pay an emergency loan if they have exhausted all other avenues.

A joint statement from the FCO and the Department for Transport said: 'We have agreed to focus our efforts on helping British travellers overseas and their direct family members get home to the UK, not British overseas residents.

'We will prioritise the places where commercial routes no longer exist and where large numbers of British travellers are stranded. We will continue to focus on those who are vulnerable due to age or underlying medical conditions, taking local healthcare and security situations into consideration.

'It is important that we assess how people can move within a country in order to assemble for special return flights, and whether aircraft can safely access a location.

'These special flights are not intended for symptomatic passengers. Those unable to travel should follow our advice to self-isolate and the medical and other advice of the local authorities. We will continue to provide them with all the consular support we can.'

FCO Travel Advice is the primary public communications channel and will be updated regularly to provide stranded Britons with the latest information about new departure options. The flights will also be advertised in-country.

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