TUI scraps mainland Spain holidays over quarantine change
German tourists prepare to board a bus of German tour operator TUI upon their arrival at Son San Joan Aeroport in Palma de Mallorca on June 15, 2020, as part of a pilot program to reactivate tourism a week before Spain reopens its borders. Spain, one of the world's leading tourist destinations, will next June 21 re-establish free travel with fellow EU countries. (JAIME REINA / AFP)
(AFP) - Tour operator TUI has cancelled all British holidays to mainland Spain from Monday until August 9, after the UK government's decision to require travellers returning from the country to quarantine.
The newly-imposed rule to self-isolate, abruptly introduced at midnight Saturday hours after being announced, follows a surge in coronavirus cases in parts of Spain in recent weeks.
However, other major British airlines have so far held off cancelling flights to Spain.
TUI, Britain's biggest tour operator, said its decision did not apply to the Balearic Islands and Canary Islands, where COVID-19 case numbers are markedly lower than in parts of mainland Spain.
Meanwhile holidaymakers already in the country will still be able to take their original flight home.
German-owned TUI said customers impacted by the cancellations would be able to receive a full refund or the option to rebook their holiday.
The operator said it was in contact with Britain's Foreign Office "to understand" why the government has introduced quarantine measures for all of Spain, when its travel advice is less stringent for the Balearic Islands and Canary Islands.
"We believe regional travel corridors need to be considered," it said in a statement.
"The UK Government must work closely with the travel industry as this level of uncertainty and confusion is damaging for business and disappointing for those looking forward to a well-deserved break."
- 'Disappointed' -
The UK decision requires people arriving from Spain, a popular holiday destination for many Britons, to self-isolate for two weeks.
Struggling British airlines said they were maintaining their flights but "disappointed" by the move.
"This is sadly yet another blow for British holidaymakers and cannot fail to have an impact on an already troubled aviation industry," British Airways said in a statement.
EasyJet added it would operate its full schedule in the coming days but that customers who no longer wish to travel could transfer their flights without a change fee or receive a voucher for the value of their booking.
"We are disappointed that the government has decided to impose a quarantine requirement for those travelling from the whole of Spain since the increased occurrence of coronavirus is regional rather than nationwide," the budget carrier said.
The new quarantine measures has dismayed the tourism sector, which was aiming to recover some of its revenues during the peak summer weeks after being decimated by months of lockdown.
Investors signalled their unease, with stocks in large operators in the sector collapsed Monday morning on the London Stock Exchange.
IAG, the parent company of British Airways, lost around 9 percent, while EasyJet was down 10.6 percent and TUI 12.3 percent, in trading up to 0915 GMT.
© Agence France-Presse