News Coronavirus travel questions: Your COVID-19 queries answered

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Coronavirus travel questions: Your COVID-19 queries answered

The UK is under lockdown, and many countries around the world have imposed travel bans from the UK due to the new coronavirus variant. This rules out travel for now - but we've got your answers covered, to plan for when restrictions ease.

Dreaming about your next trip but with travel questions on your mind? You’re not the only one, but seeing as the UK is under lockdown until at least mid-February, holidays aren’t on the cards right now. But we’re here to help you plan for a trip once borders open up again. Skyscanner’s panel of experts has answered some of the most commonly asked coronavirus travel questions.

The coronavirus travel questions you’ve been asking

Destination inspiration

We know that travel is especially difficult, or even off limits, right now. But alongside the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates, we want to continue to inspire you with new travel content so that when the world opens its doors again, you’ll be ready.

Can I go abroad?

Not right now. UK residents cannot travel domestically or abroad (unless for essential reasons) until mid-February at least, as the whole country is under lockdown. There are also a number of travel bans in place for UK travellers, in response to the new coronavirus variant that originated in southeast England.

Do I need a COVID test to travel?

That depends on where you’re going. Many countries, including Spain, Germany and the USA require proof of a negative COVID test on arrival. Heathrow Airport offers a LAMP test service for passengers travelling to Italy and Hong Kong, but be aware that both these countries – as well as many others – are currently denying entry to British arrivals (keep an eye on the FCDO website for up-to-date advice). And from next week, all international arrivals to the UK will have to test negative for COVID-19, taken up to 72 hours before departure.

When can I travel to Spain again?

Only Spanish nationals can travel from the UK to Spain currently, as the UK is in lockdown and Spain is not on the travel corridors list. Plus, due to the new coronavirus variant, Spain has imposed a travel ban from the UK until 6pm on 19 January. We regularly look at the data to try and help you work out when travel to Spain might be allowed again, whether it’s safe to go and what you need to consider if you do visit right now.

We answer your coronavirus travel questions, including what extra things to take with you

Can I book a future multi-destination holiday?

It’s hard to book a multi-destination trip in advance, as the government’s travel corridors list, and different countries’ entry requirements, change frequently. When lockdown eases, check whether the countries you plan on visiting are exempt from the UK’s quarantine policy before booking, and whether you need proof of a negative COVID test on arrival at each destination. If even one of the countries you plan on visiting isn’t exempt, then you and anyone you travel with will be required to self-isolate for up to 10 days upon return.

How do I plan a multi-destination holiday?

There are many things to consider when planning a multi-destination holiday at the best of times. With coronavirus affecting travel plans there are even more things to consider when preparing to visit two or more countries in one trip. Luckily, our guide to planning a multi-country holiday during COVID-19 explains everything you need to consider before booking, once lockdown easescan I find unique future holiday ideas?

Our travel content provides inspiration for travelling during COVID-19, as well as ideas for booking ahead, such as suggestions of unexpected destinations to visit when travel restrictions ease.

Which countries are currently quarantine free?

It’s hard to keep track of all the changing travel restrictions during to the COVID-19 pandemic. Find out whose borders are open with our interactive global map, and sign up to receive email updates when your top destinations reopen.

How do you pack for a trip during COVID-19? We answer your coronavirus travel questions

Coronavirus travel questions on air travel

Read on for everything you need to know about travelling while the pandemic is ongoing, from how to stay safe while flying to whether baggage guidelines have changed, and what to do if you plan on cancelling your flights.

Is it safe to fly?

“Travel providers are always implementing and improving hygiene standards to keep travellers safe and instil confidence. Airlines and airports have introduced many new measures to keep travellers safe on their journey. It’s also recommended that you take plenty of personal protective equipment with you to reduce the risks associated with flying during coronavirus.”

Jon Thorne, Director of User Satisfaction at Skyscanner

How clean is the air you breathe on an airplane?

In simple terms, the air you breathe on a plane is almost certainly cleaner than the stuff you’d be breathing indoors on land. It may not be as pure as getting out to nature, but it’s better than the air you breathe in cafes, cinemas or supermarkets. This is down to the efficient air circulation systems and HEPA filters that are found on the majority of modern commercial flights.

What does HEPA stand for?

HEPA stands for High Efficiency Particulate Air and is a common type of filter used on planes. What they do is essentially remove any impurities in the air, no matter how small including the tiny Covid-19 microns. In fact, in NASA research, HEPA filters remove impurities of that size with a 99.97% efficiency.

Skyscanner answers your coronavirus travel questions, like how safe is the airport and what precautions to take

When will I be able to travel long-haul again?

Right now, any travel for holidays is off the cards as the UK is under lockdown until mid-February earliest. However, major airlines continue to fly long-haul routes from the UK, for foreign nationals returning home and for essential travel. See which countries open to travellers from the UK and check out our guide to buying travel insurance during coronavirus, in case plans change last minute.

Have baggage guidelines changed during coronavirus?

Baggage guidelines haven’t really changed that much since the pandemic started. The size and number of bags you’re allowed to take with you has remained the same. However, most airlines are recommending that passengers check in all their luggage to be extra safe when it comes to keeping conditions as sanitised as possible on board. If you’re unsure what the baggage restrictions are on board check out our guide to checked and carry-on luggage. Also, head to the baggage section of the website for the airline you’re travelling with as this is the first place that will be updated with any changes.

What are the quarantine rules for domestic flights?

The rules are different for people travelling domestically by air. In most instances, travellers are required to monitor their health for up to 14 days after flying, but in other stricter countries, those travelling domestically must self-isolate for up to seven days. And under lockdown, non-essential domestic travel is not allowed. It’s best to check with your local government’s travel advice page before deciding how you’re going to travel domestically.

Airlines take extra hygiene precautions during COVID-19.

I’m thinking of cancelling my flight. What are my options?

This depends on the airlines’ cancellation and compensation policies, but you’re usually only entitled to a refund if the airline cancels your flight (not if you decide not to travel due to coronavirus concerns). As a result of the uncertainty due to the COVID-19 situation, many airlines are offering flexible rebooking options, so you can move your travel to a later date for free. Some airlines offer credit and booking incentives in lieu of refunds.

How do I know if the airline I’ve booked with has cancelled my flights? 

Most airlines are communicating closely with passengers with updates on the status of their flight. In addition to keeping an eye on your emails and the airline’s website, check the FCDO website for daily updates on specific destinations. For specific airline route information, check the International Air Travel Association.

The airline I’m flying with cancelled my flight. What are my options?

It depends on the airline and their policy. Some airlines offer a voucher for future travel, or the option to rebook for a later date with no fee. Many airlines are offering automatic refunds in the case of a COVID-related cancellation, so check directly with the airline or travel agent about your options.

You coronavirus travel questions answered: how to protect yourself while travelling

I’m struggling to get a refund. What should I do? 

In these times, call centres and online support teams are fielding significantly higher volumes of claims than usual. Some airlines have responded to these challenges by instituting COVID-specific policies that allow travellers to claim and receive refunds over a longer time period. Check your airline’s website for policy details. If you’re trying to call or use a live chat to discuss refund options, expect longer wait times than usual, and be persistent.

I booked with Skyscanner. How can I cancel my trip or make changes? 

There are two ways to buy travel through the Skyscanner site or app: buy from a partner or book with us. Skyscanner’s partners are the travel agencies, airlines, hotels and car hire companies you can book with through our site and app. If you booked with a partner, you’ll need to contact them directly to cancel or make changes to your booking. If you booked your travel with Skyscanner on our site or in the app, then check your booking confirmation for details on all the ways to get help. Not sure who you bought your travel from? Check your confirmation email or your bank statement for details on who the payment was made to.

What protections are in place for holiday bookings going forward?

“Many providers have introduced flexible booking policies for future travel. When searching on Skyscanner for flights you can identify those fares covered by flexible booking policies by the ‘flexible ticket’ icon on the flight listing. You can also adjust your search to show only flexible bookings.

Travel insurance is more important than ever, so it is advised to ensure that any existing policy you have in place covers you for the travel you are looking to book.

“It’s also advisable to check any consular and repatriation agreements between your home country and the country you want to visit. In some cases, countries might not have official measures in place to ensure you can return quickly from your place of travel if there is an emergency.”

Martin Nolan, Senior Director, Legal & Public and Regulatory Affairs at Skyscanner

Can I book a last-minute holiday?

Right now, you’ll have to stay put until the end of lockdown. But Skyscanner has created some handy search tools for when travel opens up again, like price alerts and flexible tickets, to help future you to book a last-minute holiday within your budget.

We answer your coronavirus travel questions, such as: can I eat on a plane if I'm wearing a face mask?

Can I travel within the UK?

Not at the moment. The whole of the UK is under lockdown until mid-February earliest, meaning that domestic and international travel is off the cards, unless for essential reasons. But you can plan ahead for when lockdown eases. Take a look at our staycation inspiration, for future ideas.

What precautions should I take when abroad?

Every country has its own guidelines, so look up local government advice in each destination that you go to. But in general, the same rules apply abroad as at home. Do your best to give people two metres of space, wear a mask whenever you use public transport or take a taxi and wash your hands (for 20 seconds) and use hand sanitiser regularly. If you need to cough or sneeze, keep your mask on and cover your face using the crook of your elbow. Then, immediately change your mask, throwing away or bagging up the soiled one to wash later.

How can Skyscanner help me book a COVID-friendly trip?

As well as our ‘Where’s open?’ interactive map, Skyscanner has created a variety of features to help you book with confidence: flexible booking policies, cleanliness and safety ratings, and filters for browsing hotels with free cancellation policies.

Travel during COVID: all you need to know

General coronavirus travel questions

In this section we look at the best of rest. What exactly do travel corridors mean? What does the future of air travel look like, and how has COVID-19 changed people’s attitudes towards travel?

What are travel corridors?

Travel corridors, also known as ‘air bridges’ and similar to the idea of travel bubbles, allow travellers passage between two or more countries without the need to quarantine. However, anyone entering the UK from outside of the travel corridors will still need to quarantine for up to 10 days (five, if you take a negative COVID test on day five of isolation).

What is a ‘workation’?

This year, some 47 per cent of full time British employees have done some work from home, and it’s becoming clear that as long as the WiFi’s good, they can feasibly work from anywhere. Enter the workation: a break that combines work with a holiday. One of 2020’s travel buzzwords, it could be a trend that’s here to stay if working from home continues to thrive.

What does the future of air travel look like?

“Expect more electronic security measures as you move through the airport, with infrared cameras, body sensors and temperature screening in place in some cases to avoid infections spreading. Consider downloading apps to ensure that you don’t have to carry paper documents (primarily check-in, security, boarding and hotel confirmation). Also, consider taking most of your foreign currency in electronic form. Multi-currency cards with e-wallets mean you can avoid international bank fees and use contactless payment over notes and coins.”

Dave Thomson, Chief of Staff Product and Design at Skyscanner

How has coronavirus changed people’s attitudes toward travel?

We conducted a traveller survey and found that two-thirds (65%) of travellers also said they “want to make better use of their time to travel” and 80% are “more likely to travel to their dream destination” once COVID-19 travel restrictions are lifted.

“We have seen a marked increase in the number of people coming to Skyscanner and searching for travel. Many airlines are now likely to add additional routes to their schedules with the aim of enticing travellers back to the skies with offers and promotions.

“Whilst overall figures remain down compared to last year, our data does show positive signs and significant interest in short-haul European travel within the next 60-90 days. Safety is of course, still paramount and we encourage people to come to Skyscanner for advice on how best to travel under these new guidelines.”

Jo McClintock, Global Brand and Marketing Director at Skyscanner

So there you have it, your coronavirus travel questions answered! There are plenty of ways to get inspired for when the world opens up again.

This page was last updated on 9 January 2021. To our knowledge, the information on this page was correct at the time of publication. However, given the nature of the COVID-19 crisis, the information will vary by location and change at short notice and over time. We will do our best to keep this page up-to-date, however, this cannot be guaranteed.

This page has been created for general guidance only and has not been designed for you or any specific circumstances relevant to you. It is highly recommended that you check your government’s latest travel advice before travelling or making any decisions to travel.

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