BRITISH Airways, easyJet and Tui are still selling flights in April and May – despite a global coronavirus lockdown grounding planes.
The airlines are flogging cheap tickets as foreign travel plummets across Europe with bans imposed to curb the spread of the disease.
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On March 17, the Foreign Secretary announced Brits shouldn't travel anywhere outside the UK for at least 30 days to tackle the bug.
Dominic Raab told the entire nation to stay put unless it is absolutely essential – cancelling all holidays and trips.
But BA,which is going to furlough 28,000 staff on 80 per cent pay, is still selling tickets from May 1 – including £32 flights to virus-ravaged Italy.
Tui is offering package deals for April 21 onwards, with a trip to Alicante in Spain costing just £330 per person, The Times reports.
This is despite more than 10,000 people dying from the killer virus in Spain – the second highest death toll in the world.
And easyJet, who this week grounded its entire fleet of aircraft due to the coronavirus pandemic, is selling tickets to Europe from May 1 for just £34.99.
The EU has said it will ban all external travel for a month to try to stop the spread of the virus.
As a result, UK airlines have seen their schedules reduced by up to 95 per cent.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is urging all British travellers to return to the UK as soon as possible, warning that further closures to air routes may occur without notice.
Last week, Mr Raab said as many as almost one million British nationals could be travelling abroad.
Many are at risk of being stranded due to airlines grounding planes because of a drop in demand and an increase in travel restrictions – although airlines are operating some rescue flights.
What are airlines saying about flights?
- British Airways – It's offering travellers who are due to depart between March 14 and May 31 the option to cancel their booking in return for a voucher of the same value. On its website, BA has the following message: "We’re currently experiencing extremely high call volumes. Please don’t call or message unless you’re travelling in the next 72 hours so we can help those needing urgent rebooking."
- easyJet – It told us any customers who are affected by flight cancellations will be able to change their flights for free. A spokesperson added: "We are aware call volumes to our customer contact centre are currently very high. We are working hard to try and assist customers as quickly as possible and would like to apologise for any inconvenience however we would recommend customers wishing to make free of charge changes to their bookings should do so on the website or app via the Manage Bookings section."
- Norwegian – It says customers with existing bookings can rebook or cancel their flights online. It's also waiving the change fee for bookings for travel up to and including November 30, 2020. Norwegian says on its website: "If you are not booked to travel in the next three days, we ask you kindly to contact us at a later date."
- Ryanair – It has removed the fee for changing flights on trips scheduled to depart between March 13 and March 31. The airline says on its web page: "Where we’ve been required to cancel flights, customers will be able to transfer to an alternative Ryanair flight free of charge or receive a refund."
- TUI – It says any customers due to travel between March 17 and March 23 will be contacted about their holiday. The travel company said: "In this rapidly changing environment the safety and welfare of our guests and employees worldwide remains of paramount importance."
A spokesperson for easyJet said: "At this stage there can be no certainty of the date for restarting commercial flights and we are evaluating continuously based on changing regulations and customer demand.
"Whilst our crew are furloughed for two months we remain ready to operate within that timeframe if we are able to do so.
"We have an ongoing rolling cancellation programme in place and are working through these having taken April off sale."
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While a Tui spokesperson said: "As the advice against all but essential travel is currently in place until 16 April, all holidays departing after this date are still available to book and planned to operate.
"Should the advice be extended, we will proactively contact affected customers to discuss their options and take holidays off sale."
We've explained what to do if airlines won't refund you for your flight.
It comes as the UK death toll yesterday overtook China and Iran's official tallies after 684 more people died.
Based on figures released by both countries' governments, Britain's total death toll of 3,645 is now 319 higher than China where the outbreak started.
And the latest deaths put Britain higher than Iran's official death toll of 3,294.
The figures for both countries have been posted on the John Hopkins University website but their governments have been accused of hiding the true numbers of deaths.
The UK's peak is now expected to hit on Easter Sunday with around 1,000 deaths a day, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has warned.
Positive cases for the deadly disease in the UK have jumped to 38,168 – up 4,450 from yesterday's total of 33,718.
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