British tourists voiced their fury today at holidays to Portugal this month being thrown into doubt as the country’s government held crunch talks on Covid rules.
Portugal had been expected to lift its ban on European tourists entering – including Britons – from Sunday, but there are now reports this might not be until May 30.
The move would mean Britons with holidays booked there next week – to coincide with the UK’s own travel ban being lifted on Monday – face having them cancelled.
It would also block thousands of football fans who have booked tickets for the Champions League final in Porto between Chelsea and Manchester City on May 29.
Among the tourists worried about their upcoming holiday are Sue and Sean Flynn, both 55 and from Leeds, who are hoping to fly to Faro with Ryanair next Friday.
Sue Flynn, 55, from Leeds, is hoping to fly on holiday to Faro with Ryanair next Friday. She spoke to Charlie Stayt and Naga Munchetty on BBC Breakfast this morning
Ryanair aircraft and ancillary equipment are prepared at London Stansted Airport this morning
Britons still hoping to travel to Portugal when it is added to the UK’s ‘green list’ in three days’ time can snap up a flight from London to Faro or Porto for as little as £17 return
Mrs Flynn told BBC Breakfast this morning: ‘We’ve booked with Ryanair to go on a flight and we’ve booked the accommodation as well, my husband and I.
‘We’ve been trying since last year really to get away. We have a holiday business in Kalkan in Turkey, and we’ve not been able to get there since October.
Flights to Portugal drop 74% in four days with returns to Faro and Porto for just £17
Britons still hoping to travel to Portugal when it is added to the UK’s ‘green list’ in three days’ time can snap up a flight from London to Faro or Porto for as little as £17 return.
There have been huge price reductions this week with flights to both destinations down by more than 70 per cent since Monday.
Flights to Lisbon have also fallen by more than 40 per cent in four days to £39 return, when travelling with Ryanair on May 17 and coming back a week later.
There has also been a fall of 86 per cent in one week after the cheapest return to Lisbon when checked last Friday before the ‘green list’ announcement was £282 with TAP Portugal.
Over the weekend Ryanair launched a flurry of new flights to Portugal, with Lisbon initially priced at £67 return on Monday.
As for Faro, a return from Stansted is now £17, having been £63 on Monday – down 73 per cent in four days.
And Porto has dropped by a similar level, 74 per cent, from £66 on Monday to £17 today.
However, as for the other main warm weather destination on Britain’s ‘green list’, Gibraltar, prices have shot up over the past week.
Last Friday, the cheapest return was with WizzAir from Luton at £76, but this has gone up to £147 today – a rise of 93 per cent in a week.
‘We’ve had four flights cancelled, and when we thought that Portugal was going on the green list, we thought, well, we’ll change to there.
‘But unfortunately this has come along, to throw a curveball, and here we are again looking at potentially cancelled flights – it’s really frustrating.’
Mrs Flynn said she and her husband have both had their two Covid-19 vaccines and are ‘very, very careful’ having been shielding for much of the pandemic.
She added: ‘We’ve been used to taking our own precautions and looking after ourselves. The flight, I believe, is as safe as a flight can be.
‘We have self-catering accommodation. So as far as I’m concerned we can look after ourselves. But I do understand the overall concerns for everyone flopping off to a holiday.’
Mrs Flynn continued: ‘I think we’ve all got used to not knowing, and it really takes away the shine off going on holiday and being able to look forward to it.
‘Instead you’re worrying and wondering – is it actually going to happen?
‘It may or it may not, and we’ll just have to live with that if it doesn’t unfortunately, and try and get refunds from the operators that we’ve booked with.’
Other tourists took to Twitter to share their concerns about holidays this month to Portugal. One said: ‘I have just changed holiday from Lanzarote, now going to Portugal, but it’s saying not open for holiday. We go May 30, very worried now.’
Another tweeted: ‘I’m flying to Faro next Thursday. Is holiday likely to be cancelled due to recent news about Portugal? How far in advance will you make a decision.’
A third tourist hoping for a holiday in Portugal said they had got ‘sucked in by green list this and that’.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Tuesday that as of May 17 the ‘stay in the UK’ restriction will lift, meaning people will be able to travel to green list countries such as Portugal without self-isolating on their return.
But guidance published on the Portuguese government’s website on Thursday stated that ministers had approved a move to continue the current level of lockdown.
UK holidaymakers are currently prohibited from entering the European Union, but holiday firms have reported huge demand for trips to Portugal following the publication of the green list.
EasyJet has added 105,000 extra seat to its flights serving green tier destinations, while Tui plans to use aircraft which normally operate long-haul routes to accommodate the surge of people booked to fly to Portugal.
A spokesman for Tui said: ‘We’re monitoring the situation closely and will provide a further update as soon as we have clarification from the Portuguese government.
‘We would like to reassure customers that we will contact them directly if their flight or holiday is impacted to discuss their options, this includes offering a full refund or the chance to change the holiday for free.’
The Portuguese archipelago of Madeira is open for tourism.
Thousands of British football fans are hoping to travel to Porto in mainland Portugal for the all-English Champions League final between Manchester City and Chelsea on May 29.
The final had previously been due to be held in Istanbul but was moved to Portugal following talks between UK ministers and UEFA organisers after Turkey was added to England’s travel red list.
Uefa previously confirmed that 6,000 tickets would be made available to each of the finalists, with the final capacity limit at the Estadio do Dragao still to be fixed.
However, officials in Lisbon suggested the Portuguese cabinet talks about Covid concerned extending the country’s official ‘state of calamity’ and would not change the lifting of the travel ban.
People enjoy the sunshine on the beach at Nazare in Portugal in August 2016
The Champions League final in Porto is between Chelsea and Manchester City and it is hoped 6,000 fans from each club will attend. Pictured: Man City and Chelsea fans at Wembley in 2019
They said it related to its ability to introduce emergency Covid legislation and would not include tourism, which they said was still expected to be given the green light from Sunday.
Chelsea and Manchester City fans face strict Portuguese travel requirements
English fans travelling to Portugal for the Champions League final between Chelsea and Manchester City have been told they must fly in and out of the country within 24 hours.
The Portuguese government also said supporters will have to operate in ‘bubbles’, arrive and depart only on charter planes, and face Covid-19 tests for the May 29 clash in Porto.
The European showpiece has been switched from Istanbul after the UK Government added Turkey to its high-risk ‘red list’ for international travel.
Chelsea and City will each be provided with 6,000 tickets for the match at the Estadio do Dragao.
Quoted on the BBC website, Portugal’s cabinet affairs minister Mariana Vieira da Silva said ‘Those who come to the final of the Champions League will come and return on the same day, with a test done, in a bubble situation, on charter flights.
‘There will be two fan zones and from there they will be moved to the stadium and from the stadium to the airport, being in Portugal less than 24 hours.
‘Obviously those coming by plane [to be in Porto while the match is on but do not actually go the stadium] will comply with the established rules and security measures will be put in place.’
City said on their website that they will provide ‘qualifying supporters an official day trip travel package from Manchester to Porto.’
Wembley was considered as an alternative to Porto, but the UK Government could not accommodate UEFA’s request to allow quarantine exemptions for thousands of sponsors, VIPs and broadcasters.
Secretary of State Oliver Dowden told a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee hearing the UK Government had constructive dialogue with UEFA but a resolution could not be reached.
‘Ultimately I was unable and the Government was unable to give an assurance to UEFA that we would be willing to vary our quarantine rules in the way they wished to happen,’ Dowden said.
‘We had a very constructive discussion with UEFA and it was a genuine difference that couldn’t be overcome. I respect the decision that UEFA made and I think they respect the fact the Government wasn’t able to move on that.’
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola (left) and Chelsea’s Thomas Tuchel will go head to head in Porto (Ben Stansall/PA).
The decision means Portugal will host the Champions League final for the second year in a row, after Lisbon was the location for the delayed final stages of last season’s competition.
UEFA said: ‘The final was originally scheduled to take place at the Ataturk Olympic Stadium in Istanbul but, following the UK government’s decision to place Turkey on its red list of Covid-19 travel destinations, staging the final there would have meant none of the clubs’ domestic fans would be able to travel to the game.
‘After a year of fans being locked out of stadiums, UEFA thought that everything needed to be done to ensure the supporters of the two finalist teams could attend.
‘UEFA discussed moving the match to England but, despite exhaustive efforts on the part of the Football Association and the authorities, it was not possible to achieve the necessary exemptions from UK quarantine arrangements.’
A formal announcement clarifying the situation is expected today.
It came as the BBC reported that the Portuguese government will require UK football fans to fly in and out of the country on the day of the match.
Fans will also have to stay in a ‘bubble’ while in the city.
The country’s cabinet affairs minister, Mariana Vieira da Silva, said: ‘Those who come to the final of the Champions League will come and return on the same day, with a test done, in a bubble situation, on charter flights.
‘There will be two fan zones and from there they will be moved to the stadium and from the stadium to the airport, being in Portugal less than 24 hours.’
Air fares from London and Manchester to Porto soared after the final was moved there.
On Friday May 21, Ryanair had seats on an early flight from Manchester to Porto for £10.
A week later, the day before the final, the same flight cost £288 as seats started being snapped up.
Other flights before or on the day of the final were going for £300 or more.
According to the BBC, Ms Vieira da Silva said in a briefing yesterday she had ‘no information to give yet’ when asked if restrictions on travel from the UK would soon be lifted.
Cristovao Norte, Portuguese MP for the Algarve, said a decision should be taken ‘immediately’.
He told BBC Breakfast on Friday: ‘We are today going to make an urgent inquiry asking the (Portuguese) government whether or not the English travel can come to Portugal next Monday because we are three days ahead from 17th and no one is sure what is going to happen.
‘Our vaccination process is going steadily and it is important a decision is taken immediately.
‘The message is clear: there are no reasons, nor political or scientific reasons to maintain restrictions for travel from the UK to Portugal.’
Ms Vieira da Silva said under current plans for the Champions League final, a series of restrictions to British fans would apply.
As well as the limit on ticket sales, fans will have to fly in on charter planes, arriving and leaving ‘on the same day’, the BBC said.
Ms Vieira da Silva described the plans as ‘a bubble situation’, with fans passing through a separate zone at the airport and needing a negative coronavirus test before travelling.
Guidance from the Department of Transport warns that many green list countries still have restrictions on UK travellers.
It advises passengers to check all entry and testing requirements and Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) travel advice for Portugal before booking travel.
It is understood the UK Government has been in discussion with Portuguese representatives this week to discuss plans to unlock travel between the two countries.
The Government is also in talks with the European Commission on how to safely reopen travel routes on the continent, it is understood.
During the ‘state of calamity’, entry to Portugal is only allowed if you are a returning resident, according to information on the FCDO website.
Entry to non-residents is limited to essential purposes from the UK and other non-EU countries, and EU or European Economic Area countries where the case rate is above 150 cases per 100,000 residents.
‘Essential purposes’ are defined as travelling to live with immediate family members or professional, educational, health or humanitarian reasons.
To enter Portugal, proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken with 72 hours of departure is required.
Those without proof of a negative test can be refused permission to board a flight, or may be forced to quarantine in government-approved accommodation upon arrival.