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Chaos in the UK following new travel bans and flight cancellations to slow spread of new coronavirus strain

Dec. 20, 2020
4 min read
Chaos in the UK following new travel bans and flight cancellations to slow spread of new coronavirus strain
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Travel to and from the United Kingdom is screeching to a halt amidst reports of a new strain of the coronavirus.

Several European nations, including Austria and Italy, are banning flights from the United Kingdom beginning Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, according to the Associated Press. Belgium has banned flights for at least 24 hours beginning at midnight and is stopping its train service to Britain. And the Netherlands has halted flights from the U.K. for the rest of the year, if not longer. Germany is "working on" new restrictions as well, and the Czech Republic responded by enforcing stricter quarantine regulations on travelers from the U.K.

Individual airlines are reviewing flight schedules and canceling crew layovers in the U.K., Bloomberg reported on Sunday.

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The bans and regulations come on the heels of new Tier 4 restrictions in parts of England that prohibit travel except for essential reasons. People in areas now considered Tier 4, including London, Kent and Hampshire, among others, are expected to stay home at this time, the Independent reported. Work, school, medical treatment and "compassionate reasons" are considered essential, but leisure travel within your area, abroad or within the U.K. is not acceptable.

A public safety notice that reads, "COVID-19 Rates High, SOS-Tier 4, Stay Safe" in Southend on Sea, England. (Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images)

In response, Tui (the largest travel company in Britain) has canceled all flights between Dec. 20 and Dec. 30 departing from London Luton Airport (LTN). For many Britons, the flurry of cancellations effectively spells the end of travel for the year. And travelers with trips to certain areas of England, including the City of London and all of London's boroughs, will be forced to call off those trips.

Related: Can I travel to England? Everything you need to know about the new quarantine program

Hotels, vacation rental properties, inns, pubs, restaurants cafes and bars in Tier 3 and 4 areas must close, according to the Independent, though there are many exceptions. Takeout, drive-thru and delivery services can continue, for example.

Empty high street in Essex as the area enters Tier 4. (Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images)

Still, most of England is considered Tier 1, 2 and 3 — and residents in these tiers can still transit through airports in Tier 4 areas, including Heathrow, London City and Luton, which remain open and operational. Stansted and Gatwick, according to the Independent are in Tier 2 areas.

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Travelers affected by the new spate of cancellations and mandates may not be able to get their money back. According to early reports by Bloomberg, both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic say travelers who cancel their trips may not be eligible for refunds. Travelers should wait until the last possible to minute to see if the airline cancels first, which would trigger a refund. Otherwise, travelers may be forced to rebook or accept a voucher. EasyJet and Tui, on the other hand, are permitting travelers to request refunds.

Related: You can now cancel British Airways bookings for free even if made before the pandemic

The new strain of the coronavirus is thought to be even more contagious, though British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said there was "no evidence" that it is more severe or lethal.

“What we understand is that it does have increased transmissibility, in terms of its ability to spread,” Maria Van Kerkhove, the technical lead on COVID-19 at the World Health Organization (WHO) told the BBC on Sunday.

Despite efforts from the European Union to isolate the new strain, which the AP said was first identified in southeastern England as early as September, has already been recorded in Denmark, the Netherlands and Australia.

There have also been widespread reports of "travel chaos" around England and the U.K., with people crowding train stations, airports and roads to escape the new lockdown restrictions. Tickets for trains departing from several major train stations sold out.

Feature photo of travelers waiting for the last train to Paris from St. Pancras station on Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020. Photo by Stefan Rousseau/PA Images via Getty Images.

Featured image by PA Images via Getty Images

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Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership.

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  • Annual Fee

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  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
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Why We Chose It

Sometimes it's worth a large investment to reap the benefits of a great credit card. That's exactly the case with the Amex Platinum card. In exchange for the annual fee, you'll unlock access to the Amex Membership Rewards program that let you access airline and hotel transfer partners, along with new lifestyle and travel credits. This card is also incredibly rewarding for travel purchases, helping you rack up a ton of Membership Rewards points for your next award trip.

Pros

  • The current welcome offer on this card is quite lucrative. TPG values it at $1,600.
  • This card comes with a long list of benefits, including access to Centurion Lounges, complimentary elite status with Hilton and Marriott, at least $500 in assorted annual statement credits and so much more. (Enrollment required for select benefits.)
  • The Amex Platinum comes with access to a premium concierge service that can help you with everything from booking hard-to-get reservations to finding destination guides to help you plan out your next getaway.

Cons

  • The high annual fee is only worth it if you’re taking full advantage of the card’s benefits. Seldom travelers may not get enough value to warrant the cost.
  • Outside of the current welcome bonus, you’re only earning higher rewards on specific airfare and hotel purchases, so it’s not a great card for other spending categories.
  • The annual airline fee statement credit can be complicated to take advantage of compared to the broader travel credits offered by competing premium cards.
  • Earn 80,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $6,000 on purchases on your new Card in your first 6 months of Card Membership. Apply and select your preferred metal Card design: classic Platinum Card®, Platinum x Kehinde Wiley, or Platinum x Julie Mehretu.
  • Earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points for flights booked directly with airlines or with American Express Travel up to $500,000 on these purchases per calendar year and earn 5X Membership Rewards® Points on prepaid hotels booked with American Express Travel.
  • Get $200 back in statement credits each year on prepaid Fine Hotels + Resorts® or The Hotel Collection bookings, which requires a minimum two-night stay, through American Express Travel when you pay with your Platinum Card®.
  • $240 Digital Entertainment Credit: Get up to $20 back each month on eligible purchases made with your Platinum Card® on one or more of the following: Audible, Disney+, The Disney Bundle, ESPN+, Hulu, Peacock, SiriusXM, and The New York Times. Enrollment required.
  • $155 Walmart+ Credit: Cover the cost of a $12.95 monthly Walmart+ membership with a statement credit after you pay for Walmart+ each month with your Platinum Card. Cost includes $12.95 plus applicable local sales tax. Plus Ups are excluded.
  • American Express has expanded The Centurion® Network to include 40+ Centurion Lounge and Studio locations worldwide. There are even more places your Platinum Card® can get you complimentary entry and exclusive perks.
  • $200 Airline Fee Credit: Get up to $200 in statement credits per calendar year in baggage fees and more at one select qualifying airline.
  • $200 Uber Cash: Enjoy Uber VIP status and up to $200 in Uber savings on rides or eats orders in the US annually. Uber Cash and Uber VIP status is available to Basic Card Member only.
  • Get up to $300 back per calendar year on the Equinox+ digital fitness app, or eligible Equinox club memberships when you pay with your Platinum Card. Enrollment required. Learn more.
  • Breeze through security with CLEAR® lanes available at 100+ airports, stadiums, and entertainment venues and get up to $189 back per calendar year on your membership when you use your Card. Learn more.
  • $695 annual fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees