Tens of thousands of UK holidaymakers raced to make last-minute dashes home as quarantine restrictions were imposed on France at 4 am this morning.
Roads were lined with cars and mobile homes and airports were packed on Friday after a government announcement gave tourists just over a day to avoid a two-week self-isolation period.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the government had taken a practical approach to restrictions after France reported more than 12,300 new coronavirus cases this week – the country’s highest infection rate in two months.
But the eleventh-hour move forced many people to pay inflated prices, with some airfares more than six times more expensive than normal.
British Airways was selling tickets for a flight from Paris to London Heathrow on Friday night costing £452. The same journey on Saturday could be made with the airline for just £66.
Meanwhile, the cheapest ticket on a Eurostar train from Paris to London was £210, compared with £165 on Saturday. At least, 12,000 people attempting to book tickets in the hour after the new rules were announced on Thursday – compared with normal levels of just hundreds.
Travellers in the south of France and the Netherlands faced a struggle getting back to the UK in time as many direct fights were sold out.
The quarantine conditions also apply to travellers returning to or visiting the UK from the Netherlands, Monaco, Malta, Turks & Caicos and Aruba.
A spokeswoman for travel trade organisation Abta said the Government’s quarantine policy will ‘result in livelihoods being lost unless it can step in with tailored support for the travel industry’.