HOLIDAYMAKERS are set to lose thousands of pounds in a “nightmare” scramble to get home from Portugal in time to avoid quarantine.
Shelly Harron, 35, from County Armagh in Northern Ireland said she has lost at least £1,000 through changing flights, rebooking tests and paying for nights in a hotel that her family of five can no longer use.
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She is among swathes of travellers rushing to get home before 4am on Tuesday when the country will be removed from the green list and the 10-day quarantine rule kicks in.
Shelly told the Sun: “I am so angry, so angry. We had looked forward to this holiday for months.”
Her family, who arrived in Albufeira on Wednesday, were “loving life,” before the reports began to emerge the next morning.
Shelly said: “We saw that Portugal might be added to the Amber list and I was horrified. I couldn’t understand it.
“We had to scramble to get the flights changed and it’s been a nightmare especially because there’s only one flight to Belfast a day.
Shelly’s 12-year-old son Nathan, who is autistic, requires special assistance in the airport so she said having to rearrange also added extra stress.
“It ruined a whole day of our holiday,” she said. “We had to get home before Tuesday because our son would not understand why he had to isolate.”
Shelley also described the trip as the “light at the end of the tunnel” after Nathan had developed anxiety and had self-harmed during lockdown.
“We had been counting down since a few days after Christmas – for 157 sleeps,” she said. “It’s been very hard for him to understand.”
Shelly said that it cost her £240 to change the flight plus £135 to change their PCR tests.
Alongside other expenses and losing two nights of accommodation she said she has ultimately lost about £1,000.
She added: “What’s the point of having the traffic light system if they [countries on the lists] can change that quickly.”
More than 112,000 Brits are currently in the popular holiday destination and have less than 96 hours to get home before Portugal is removed from the UK’s green list.
Anyone arriving in the UK after 4pm on Tuesday will have to isolate at home for 10 days and fork out up to £1,000 for extra Covid test.
Thousands have decided to cut their trips short to ensure they don’t have to quarantine when they touch back down in the UK.
‘We’ve lost £500 getting home early’
Karen Beddow, 43, from the family travel blog Mini Travellers, told The Sun that their family felt they did “everything we were supposed to do” before going to Portugal on May 31 but it still wasn’t enough.
The family had booked a holiday in West Algarve for the week, adding they “jumped through quite a lot of hoops” by taking all the necessary precautions and tests to make it possible.
When the rumours began to circulate, she said the family made a snap decision to swap their flights home from June 8 to June 6 and were lucky to get their EasyJet flights changed for free before the official announcement was made.
“But we’ve still lost two nights at the villa and money for the car hire that we don’t need any more,” she added, estimating that they’ve lost about £500 getting home.
“It’s been a real disappointment,” she added. “I think it’s really difficult and unfair. I think if there had been a huge wave of evidence for the necessity of the change then I’d think maybe, but I really don’t think there was.”
Karen also said that four days warning that a country is coming off the green list is “not enough time for many people at all”.
“They have also destroyed confidence in the travel industry for the summer,” she added.
Seats on the last flights to London from the Algarve have shot up to a staggering £711 today as holidaymakers try to beat the deadline.
‘Flights soared by £400 per ticket’
Harry Neil, 24, from Bristol, who booked a trip to Portugal with his girlfriend for his birthday, said they spent £260 changing their flights and lost half their holiday.
The couple had planned the trip for June 2 to June 9 but had to rearrange flights to avoid quarantine due to work commitments.
Harry said they first looked at changing their flight at around lunchtime on Thursday and found it would cost £200 for both of them.
“We didn’t do it immediately as we wanted to think things through and wait for the official announcement,” he said.
But within hours flight prices for Monday had soared to over £400 per ticket.
“With having to pay the difference, we were looking at £480 for a flight home for us both – more than what we paid on flights and accommodation for the whole week,” he said.
The couple instead chose to book £130 seats to come home on Sunday morning, losing nearly half of their holiday.
“We are both absolutely gutted but there was no alternative for us,” Harry said. “We are disappointed in the government’s decision to do this all so last minute, getting home by Tuesday is not giving travellers enough time.“
“Between now and our flight home Sunday, we need to organise our test prior to departure, rearrange our transfers, cancel our hotel and book our PCR tests for back home,” he added.
Meanwhile, Lewis, 29 and Hannah, 28, said they only booked a holiday to Portugal last minute because they thought it would likely stay on the green list.
Travel: What are your rights to a refund?
MILLIONS of Brits have had holiday plans cancelled. Here’s what to do if you’re affected.
Firstly, speak to your airline or holiday firm about a refund or rearranging your plans.
You are entitled to a cash refund if it’s cancelled your holiday but many have large delays processing cash or may offer vouchers instead.
If the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advises against all but essential travel to countries or regions, you may also be covered for cancellations by your travel insurance if the holiday provider or airline is not helping you.
Keep in mind travel insurance must have been taken out before the FCDO advice changed, otherwise you won’t be covered.
If you don’t have travel insurance or the excess on your insurance is so high it’s not worth claiming, you may be able to claim your money back through your credit or debit card provider.
Credit card payments between £100 and £30,000 are covered under Section 75 of the Consumer Rights Act.
To start a claim, you need to contact your credit card provider directly – Which? has a free tool that can help you do this.
Debit card claims or credit card claims of under £100 may be covered under similar Chargeback guarantees.
Lewis said the couple were “surprised” at the news breaking on Thursday and they immediately decided to get home and avoid quarantine.
He said: “We called our flight company and they quoted us over £400 to change our flights so we ended up searching for new ones.”
The couple ended up paying £300 each for a new flight on Monday but were unable to get a refund on their original flights which had cost them £200.
‘Quarantining not an option’
Josh Clements, 29, arrived back to London with his partner but almost couldn’t board his flight due to a government computer bungle.
The couple had been sent an order confirmation for their PCR tests rather an a booking reference meaning they couldn’t fill in their passenger locator forms.
He said: “It was super stressful, they were saying we couldn’t get on the plane even though we had the test.
“In the end we had to make up a reference number to fly home and no one looked at it, it was just like a quick glance.”
A woman due to be reunited with her family for the first time in 18 months next week said her hopes were “crushed” at the last minute.
Alexandra Teixeira, a retail worker from London, said: “I work in retail so quarantining at home for 10 days after coming back isn’t really an option.”
Laura Wolfe, from Manchester, cancelled a family holiday to Portugal last year and now faces more disappointment following yesterday’s announcement.
She said: “Part of us is thinking we might just go. We have saved up and are in a position to do it. And we just love it there.
“But the issue is with the rules, which seem to be changing all of the time, the quarantine and the costs of the testing for four of us.”
An Oxfordshire resident, who wished to remain anonymous said they were unable to obtain a refund for booked PCR tests.
The 37-year-old said: “It’s just these private testing centres that refuse refunds for tests that won’t be used… why can’t we just cancel and get a refund?
“They say they will give you a credit voucher but we are not going away for at least another year, and who knows what the rules will be then? It just takes advantage.”
Unfortunately, holidaymakers are unlikely to be able to claim a refund for their trip to Portugal if the new quarantine rules mean they can no longer go.
This is because the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office advice – which travel firms use to assess whether a holiday can go ahead – doesn’t advise against travel.
Some holiday providers, such as Tui and British Airways, may let you reschedule your trip for free although you’ll have to pay the different if the price has gone up.
You’ll need to speak to the company you booked the trip with to find out what can be done for your holiday.
Brits may be able to make a claim on their travel insurance – but only if this kind of scenario has been specifically outlined in your policy. You’ll need to read the small print to see if you’re covered.
Chairman of the Association of Independent Tour Operators (AITO) Chris Rowles said taking Portugal off the green list at such short notice will do nothing to encourage consumer confidence.
He added: “It will also create even more confusion and a demand for refunds, which customers will not be entitled to should they decline to travel.”
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “We recognise that this is a challenging time for holidaymakers and are working across Government to help reduce disruption.
“However we have been clear from the start that travel will be different this year and will continue to take a cautious approach to reopening international travel in a way that protects public health and the vaccine rollout.”