Four Out of Five Airlines in UK Don't Know COVID-19 Traveling Restrictions, Consumer Watchdog Finds
22:41 GMT 10.09.2021 (Updated: 15:15 GMT 28.05.2023)
Earlier this week, media reported that the UK's controversial traffic light system for trips abroad might be phased out as of October 1. The rules are expected to be based on a traveler's vaccination status rather than the risk level of the country from which they are returning.
The UK's top airlines tend to give travelers incorrect and contradictory information about COVID-19 travel testing guidelines, so that travelers would have been denied boarding in some situations, leaving them deprived of their flight or vacation, British consumer rights organization, Which?, reported.
The researchers posed as ordinary passengers conducted a total of 15 phone calls to British Airways, easyJet, Jet2, Ryanair, and TUI, asking the call centers' staff about testing documents needed to fly to mainland Portugal, and received confused or erroneous information in almost half of them.
According to Which's report on the findings, the airlines' staff were "just as confused about travel rules as the public."
According to the travel restrictions in force at the time of the research, passengers were obliged to take a pre-flight test to board the plane, regardless of whether they had been vaccinated or had previously been infected. Only PCR tests were allowed, not quick lateral flow tests, and only children under the age of two were exempt.
The consumer rights group noted that in one call to the air companies' representatives, a perplexed Jet2 employee altered their replies so many times during the phone conversation that the caller "didn’t have a clue what to think by the time it was over."
Interestingly, according to the report, by plainly refusing to provide any guidance, all three Ryanair employees hung up on the callers.
However, most of the airlines reportedly claimed to the consumer advocacy organization that the ultimate responsibility for incorrectly submitted documents rests with the customer, and that call center staff are not required to provide their expertise on the many conflicting restrictions imposed due to the pandemic.
In the end, Which? recommended getting travel advice from the government's travel guidance page, instead of contacting airlines.
According to UK media, citing insiders, authorities are exploring whether to eliminate the requirement that those who have been vaccinated perform PCR tests upon returning from most countries.