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24 Mar 2020

Thousands face being stranded in Spain as Ryanair stops flights

No seats available with easyJet and Jet2 this week, as Brits stuck in Fuerteventura advised by British embassy to make own way home

Which? Travel has found Ryanair, easyJet and Jet2 have no more flights available to book from mainland Spain to the UK this week - leaving many British holidaymakers stranded and frightened.

Last night, the foreign office advised UK residents abroad to come home. Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab said: 'We are strongly urging UK travellers overseas to return home now where and while there are still commercial routes to do so.' But this advice is already impossible to follow for many UK travellers in Spain, which is the UK's most popular holiday destination.

While airlines remain legally responsible for helping customers get home, Which? has been inundated with reports from passengers who have faced multiple cancelled flights, and been given little or no information from their airline on what to do.

Passengers 'abandoned'

Sandra and Lewis Will had a flight booked with Ryanair from Alicante to Aberdeen on 26 March. When it was cancelled they were given the option to rebook, which they did to 29 March, only for this flight to also be cancelled.

'We are in our seventies and I have recently been released from a Spanish hospital after having a mini-stroke,' Sandra told us, 'so this kind of stress does not help. We are in Spain under lockdown, hoping at some point there will be rescue flights for all the abandoned people.'

But it's currently unclear who will be providing these flights. Ryanair have offered the Wills a refund, which they've accepted, as Ryanair did not offer alternative means for them to get home.

British embassy in Spain says fly home - via Luxembourg

On Facebook and Twitter worried holidaymakers in the Canaries were desperately trying to get home any way they could.

The British Embassy in Spain tweeted to advise British people stuck in Fuerteventura that they ought to go home via Luxembourg, with its national carrier LuxAir. At the time it had just one more flight, but that has now departed.

Spanish hotels closing

Holidaymakers in Spain have been left especially worried by the fact hotels in the country are ordered to close by 26 March. One family on holiday in Fuerteventura were told on Friday that their hotel was about to shut down.

This is despite advice from the Foreign Office and the Spanish government that those already checked-in should not be kicked out, even after this date.

Spain to UK flights can cost thousands

Passengers have, for several days, been frustrated by the high prices and lack of communication from airlines in the face of widespread cancellations.

Gary Taylor's holiday in Lanzarote was cut short on Sunday 15 March, when the island went in to lockdown and he and his wife were confined to their apartment.

His travel agent, On The Beach sent them a message telling them that their Ryanair flight was cancelled and they needed to re-book with another airline. As a result they ended up paying Jet2 more than £1,000 between them for a new flight to the UK.

As this was a package holiday On The Beach were responsible for getting the couple home. It told us:

'We have been working with partner airlines to secure everybody's safe return and, in the event that a customer has to re-book a return flight to the UK, the airlines have an obligation to reimburse this.'

We are aware that some airlines are not complying with this however, so in this instance On the Beach will reimburse the customer for their alternative flight and subsequently seek to claim this back from the airline.'

Many passengers trying to claim costs such as this directly from their airline have complained of broken forms and long waits. Some have even resorted to trying to claim on their credit card.

Ryanair plane flies home half-empty

Passengers frustrated at not being rebooked or high prices have only been further angered by pictures of planes that aren't full.

One passenger tweeted a picture of his Ryanair flight from Malaga to Stansted on Saturday 21 March - showing the number of empty seats. 'Your website wanted £250 for a seat on this and wouldn't allow me to change for free,' he complained. Passengers have described similar issues with other airlines.

Foreign office considers rescue flights

We spoke to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) who told us that there are no current plans for a Thomas Cook-style rescue from Spain but that this is under review by the Foreign Office.

Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, said: 'While it's right British travellers are being urged to return to the UK, the reality is that there are now thousands of UK residents stranded in dozens of different destinations with no means to get back. The government must improve its communication and provide British citizens fearful of being stranded abroad with useful advice.'

'Where scheduled services have been withdrawn, it should leave no stone unturned to get these people on flights home.'

How to get from Spain to the UK

There are still ways to get back.

Contact your airline and ask for information on rerouting. While it may not have rescue flights now, if you are an existing ticket holder it's important your name and contact details are on any list for future flights.

Ryanair told us: 'There are no longer flights to/from Spain at this moment. Any stranded passengers should get in contact with their embassies so they are aware of how many people are still due to return home. We have run repatriation flights already and we continue to stay in close contact with EU governments to support further repatriation if needed.'

easyJet and Jet2 have told us that they are no longer running rescue flights but easyJet say they are 'continuing to assess where they might have customers affected'.

British Airways flights

There are a limited number of flights still available to book with other airlines. British Airways has flights directly from Madrid and Barcelona to the UK this week, with many connections on Iberia from regional Spanish airports, including Ibiza. Wizz Air also has tickets available, including from Tenerife.

This is currently the last week that passengers can fly direct from Alicante and Malaga to London with British Airways. The last Alicante flight is on Friday 27 March and the last Malaga flight Saturday 28 March. Passengers from other parts of the UK will probably have to travel via London or another European hub.

Holidaymakers near Alicante or Malaga can still catch a train to Barcelona or Madrid. Spanish train operator Renfe says: 'Although travel is highly discouraged there will be 50% of trains running at 30% of capacity in each carriage - to respect the sanitary distance recommendations.'

Eurowings has flights from several regional Spanish airports, including Fuerteventura, via German cities to London.

Passengers are advised to get home any way they can. It's important not to accept a refund from your airline if you still need to get home, as this means they're no longer responsible for rerouting you.