Travel rules shake-up sparks half-term booking frenzy

Travel rules shake-up sparks half-term booking frenzy
Travel rules shake-up sparks half-term booking frenzy

The shake-up of foreign travel has sparked a half-term booking frenzy with demand for holidays soaring by 200% and airlines offering deals 'far lower' than before the pandemic. 

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced on Friday that the traffic light system is to be replaced from October 4 by a single, reduced, 'red list' of destinations, from where travellers arriving in England will have to quarantine in a Government-supervised hotel.

People who are fully vaccinated will no longer need a pre-departure test before returning from non-red list destinations, and from the end of October they will be able to replace the day two PCR test with a cheaper lateral flow test.

The news sparked an instant booking frenzy - and online travel agency Skyscanner has revealed that airlines are offering incredible deals to Britons eager to go abroad. 

An economy return flight to Italy for a single adult in October is priced at just £9, while the same trip to previously-red list Turkey is £66 before dropping to £44 in December. 

A return trip to Croatia, Spain or Portugal in October is also priced at just £10, the travel agency revealed.  

Gavin Harris, Skyscanner's Commercial Director, told MailOnline: 'At the moment, prices are generally very low compared to the last 'normal' year for travel which was 2019, so any temporary rises in price are likely still good deals.

'What we expect to see is that travel providers will be move capacity to serve the popular routes and compete for bookings with continued low prices and perks for travellers.'

A return trip to Croatia, Spain or Portugal in October is priced at just £10, according to travel agency Skyscanner

A return trip to Croatia, Spain or Portugal in October is priced at just £10, according to travel agency Skyscanner

The same trip to previously-red list Turkey is priced at £66 before dropping to £44 in December

The same trip to previously-red list Turkey is priced at £66 before dropping to £44 in December

Ministers today announced they are replacing the current international travel traffic light scheme with a simplified 'go and no-go' system as they also scrapped pre-departure tests for fully-vaccinated travellers returning to England

Ministers today announced they are replacing the current international travel traffic light scheme with a simplified 'go and no-go' system as they also scrapped pre-departure tests for fully-vaccinated travellers returning to England

It comes as airlines revealed they had seen a huge surge in bookings after Mr Shapps announcement. 

Steve Heapy, chief executive of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, said bookings had spiked 'by more than 250%'.

He said Turkey is proving 'exceptionally popular', adding: 'Thanks to the certainty that yesterday's announcement has given customers, destinations right across the board are selling well, whether it's for late summer sun, winter or next summer. As you might expect, half term dates have also seen a surge in bookings for families.'

Alan French, chief executive of travel firm Thomas Cook, said October half-term bookings were up 200% compared with August and he expected this figure to increase as a result of the changed system.

Andrew Flintham, managing director of holiday company TUI UK, said he had already seen 'an uptick in bookings for Turkey in October' and expected a boost in customer confidence with the new rules. 

The deals available on travel agency Skyscanner

The following flights are return, economy flights available now on Skyscanner for a single adult. 

October 

Italy: £9

Croatia: £10

Spain: £10

Portugal: £10

Turkey: £66

UAE: £309

November 

Italy: £9

Croatia: £10

Spain: £10

Portugal: £12

Turkey: £52

UAE: £278

December 

Croatia: £9

Italy: £10

Portugal: £12

Spain: £12

Turkey: £44

UAE: £278

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Skyscanner said it saw a 133% spike in traffic in the 30 minutes following Mr Shapps's announcement, while there had been 'huge increases' in searches for destinations such as Turkey and the Maldives in anticipation of Friday's news.     

Under the changed travel system for England, unvaccinated passengers from non-red list countries will have to take a pre-departure test, and a PCR test on days two and eight after returning.

However, travellers who have a valid vaccination certificate from 17 additional countries and territories, including Japan and Singapore, will be treated as if they had been jabbed in the UK.

Meanwhile, eight countries, including Turkey, Pakistan and the Maldives, are being removed from the red list with effect from 4am on Wednesday.

Travellers from Egypt, Sri Lanka, Oman, Bangladesh and Kenya will also no longer be required to hotel quarantine from that date.

Mr Shapps said the measures were intended to strike the 'right balance', simplifying the system while managing the public health risk 'as No.1 priority'.   

The unvaccinated face even tougher rules under the new regime in a bid by ministers to encourage more people to get jabbed.  

Even when returning from countries on the 'go' list, they will have to isolate at home for ten days and take PCR tests on days two and eight.

They will still have the option of taking an extra post-arrival PCR test on the fifth day to be released from self-isolation early.

Reacting, Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said: 'By reducing the number of red-list destinations and scrapping PCR testing, ministers have paved the way for people to get away this October half-term and into the winter following 18 months of uncertainty.' 

John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow, added: 'This simplification of the travel rules is very welcome for businesses and families across the country but the decision to require fully vaccinated passengers to take more costly private lateral flow tests is an unnecessary barrier to travel, which keeps the UK out of step with the rest of the EU.'

The shake-up will apply to England only, with Scotland last night saying it would not follow suit. 

Airlines revealed they had seen a huge surge in bookings after Mr Shapps announcement. An economy class return trip to Spain will cost you just £10 in October

Airlines revealed they had seen a huge surge in bookings after Mr Shapps announcement. An economy class return trip to Spain will cost you just £10 in October

A return trip for a single adult to Portugal in October is just £10, travel agency Skyscanner revealed

A return trip for a single adult to Portugal in October is just £10, travel agency Skyscanner revealed

Holyrood said it had 'concerns at the impact on public health' of the changes and would not be adopting them. Wales and Northern Ireland have not yet said whether they will fall in line.

In a further boost for families, the new regime will carry over the current rules on children. It means under-18s will be treated as though they are fully jabbed, even if they are not.

However, returning holidaymakers will still be required to fill in a passenger locator form before travelling back to England. 

What are the new travel rules from October 4 and how do they compare to the current traffic light system? 

As of October 4, the Government's travel traffic light system is being replaced with a simplified two-tier

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