The Algarve is set to consolidate its status as one of Europe’s key tourist destinations as UK tourists plan their post-summer holidays with less restrictive travel protocols.
One day after the UK government’s announcement that from 4 October pre-departure tests would no longer be required for fully vaccinated travellers returning to England, the airline industry moved quickly to take advantage of the new rules.
Low-cost airline EasyJet reported that flight bookings from the UK had “seen a surge” since the announcement, “with leisure trips to Alicante, Mallorca and Faro among the top destinations and October proving the most popular time for travel”. It added that in the “coming days” a further 51,000 seats would be added to its October schedules for departures from the UK to beach destinations such as the Algarve.
“Every time restrictions have been relaxed or removed,” said chief commercial officer Sophie Dekkers, “we have seen pent-up demand and this is no exception. We have seen a huge surge in bookings since the move by the government to disband the traffic light system, take away the pre-departure test and remove popular summer sun destinations from the ‘red list’. With Brits scrambling for last-minute summer sun, particularly over the October half-term, we are putting on even more flights to the most popular beach hotspots to serve this added demand.
“Flexibility remains important to our customers and so we continue to offer our industry-leading Protection Promise, which includes fee free flight changes to any date or destination up to two hours before departure.”
EasyJet has partnered with approved testing firms across Europe to offer customers access to convenient and affordable testing, including PCR tests from £43 if required for a trip. The airline has also launched a travel insurance policy that includes COVID-19 cover as standard.
According to the airline, “The new COVID-19 travel insurance will cover customers who are diagnosed with COVID-19 ahead of a trip, providing the necessary rearrangements or refunds, as well as cover to customers for any required medical care if diagnosed with COVID-19 during their trip. Customers who are unable to return home due to being diagnosed with the virus are also covered for additional accommodation, necessary medical assistance, and the cost of returning home safely.”
On board, EasyJet has incorporated several biological safety measures in line with guidance from the relevant authorities. These include daily enhanced cabin disinfection effective in protecting against coronavirus for at least 24 hours, and mandatory mask wearing for customers and crew. In addition, “all EasyJet aircraft are already fitted with HEPA filters, similar to those used in hospitals, which filter 99.97 per cent of airborne contaminants in the cabin, including viruses and bacteria”.
The UK government announcement means that people who have had both jabs, and are departing from countries not on the “red list”, will be exempt from the requirement to take an expensive pre-departure PCR test.
The new rules also include a simplification of the “traffic light system”, removing the “amber” category currently applying to Portugal (including the Algarve region).
In addition, according to transport secretary Grant Shapps, later in October returning travellers will be able to replace the day-two PCR test with a cheaper rapid lateral flow test.