Bargain holidays to amber list countries still on sale despite Government advice

Holiday companies are still selling discount deals to amber list countries despite the Government asking people not to travel to them and creating more confusion for Brits wanting to head abroad.

The Prime Minister and his cabinet have told Britons not to holiday in amber list countries, with getaways supposedly only allowed to the 11 countries that remain on the green list.

But this advice remains guidance and is not law.

However research by i found flight and hotel packages for trips in June were still being sold for amber list countries by TUI, Thomas Cook and British Airways.

The next Government update to the traffic light system is expected around 24 June.

Confusion over where holidays are allowed has been compounded by separate travel advice from the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) website.

The FCDO does not currently advise against travel to Portugal, Malta, Spain’s Canary Islands, the Greek Islands of Crete, Corfu, Zakyhthos, Kos and Rhodes as well as various Caribbean destinations, although it does mention they are on the amber list.

For example on the FCDO travel advice page for Greece it says: “The FCDO advises against all but essential travel to Greece, except for the islands of Rhodes, Kos, Zakynthos, Corfu and Crete, based on the current assessment of Covid-19 risks.”

TUI and Thomas Cook are offering trips to some of the places where the FCDO does not advise against all but essential travel. BA Holidays are offering flight and hotel packages to several amber list destinations, however the airline said it was the customers responsibility to ensure they comply with Government guidelines.

A message on TUI’s website tells customers to use the code word “summer” to save £100 on trips to the Canary Islands, Portugal, Crete, Kos, Rhodes, Corfu, Zante, Malta, Gibraltar, Iceland, St Lucia, Antigua, Barbados, Cuba and Grenada, up until 31 August.

Hundreds of packages are available in June to Portugal, the Canary Islands, Rhodes, Corfu and Kos for a range of prices. A trip to Antigua was also available from 15 June for £1,537 per person.

Meanwhile Thomas Cook was offering trips to Portugal, Canary Islands, Kos, Rhodes, Zakyhthos, Corfu and Malta in June. Trips to mainland Spain, Cyprus and the Balearic Islands, where the FCDO currently advises against all but essential travel, were available from July.

BA Holidays was offering deals to Disneyland Paris in June, among many other amber list destinations. On the booking page there is a link to the FCDO travel advice website and an advisory to customers to check Government advice.

Other operators including Teletext Holidays and Love Holidays are only offering holiday deals from 1 August, while Jet2 is offering packages from 1 July.

Meanwhile Ryanair’s website had a “24 hour flash sale” on Wednesday, offering 33 per cent off 200,000 seats for travel in June if you booked before midnight. Many of the destinations were amber list with flights starting at £4.99. 

Rory Boland, travel editor of Which?, warned the confusion between the traffic light system and the FCDO advice has implications for refunds if holidays are cancelled.

He told i: “Crucially for holidaymakers, there should only be one list, this situation where we have green, amber and red and we also have a FCDO list of warnings and those two don’t completely match up, that’s really unhelpful.

“When a country has an FCDO warning tour operators will cancel the holiday and you’ll get a refund, when it doesn’t, holiday offers will continue and you have to rely on the terms and conditions instead.

“There’s very limited number of countries that don’t have the warning, so Portugal is now one of them, Canary Islands is another, there are some Greek islands on there also, what that means is the tour operators will keep going because you can still get insurance. Of course most people don’t want to go to an amber list country but they’re not able to get a refund because the two lists don’t match up.”

Bargain holidays to amber list countries still on sale despite Government advice

Mr Boland has asked the Government to align the advice but it hasn’t happened, he added: “We set out to them several times in meetings, and many in the travel industry (have), that it’s important that these lists are aligned. The Government hasn’t come out and explained why those lists aren’t aligned and it’s causing real confusion and difficulty.”

A TUI spokesperson told i: “We’re operating to some Greek islands, the Canary Islands and a couple of long haul destinations.

“Portugal is now an amber destination with FCDO travel advice, so we’re still operating there.

“We would never offer a holiday that didn’t have the FCDO advice, as that makes your travel insurance invalid. We’ve got customers who still want to travel, who understand the extra testing requirements and self-isolation on their return. Anyone with a booking who does not wish to travel can change their holiday.  

“We’re seeing bookings from customers who want to get away on holiday and we’re giving them the option.”

BA said their customers travel for a wide range of reasons including essential and work-related travel.

In a statement it said: “We are pleased to offer our customers a wide range of destinations and they are able to book with confidence, safe in the knowledge that our flexible booking policy means they can move their trip or ask for a voucher for future travel if they no longer wish to travel on their original date.”

Thomas Cook did not respond to a request for comment.

The Department for Transport said its traffic light system and FCDO travel advice are independent processes and analysed on different measures and risks. It added that FCDO advice takes into account the risk to British nationals travelling overseas while measures at the UK border aim to mitigate the overall risk to the public from inbound travel to the UK.