One million Britons stranded: Dominic Raab reveals ‘massive’ operation has been launched to arrange aid fights for people stuck overseas
- Up to a million stranded Britons are facing extortionate air fares to get home
- Dominic Raab said there was a ‘massive’ repatriation operation under way
- He is in talks with airlines on operating new routes they had never flown before
Up to a million Britons are stranded abroad and facing extortionate air fares to get home, the Foreign Secretary said yesterday.
Dominic Raab said there was a ‘massive’ operation under way to repatriate those wanting to return before borders closed and airlines stopped flying.
He revealed he was in talks with commercial airlines about operating new routes they had never flown before and also with allies to take Britons back on their flights.
British tourists in long queues at Palma de Mallorca airport in Spain on Monday. Up to a million Britons are stranded abroad and facing extortionate air fares to get home (file photo)
Passengers wait for their flights at Marrakesh Airport on March 15. Several special flights departed Morocco taking thousands of stranded Europeans home (file photo)
Giving evidence to the foreign affairs select committee, Mr Raab said: ‘Getting hundreds of thousands home is a massive, epic challenge but I’m confident we are rising to it.’
He said he was working with countries such as Peru to make sure there was a ‘window of opportunity’ for British nationals to get out. But last night stranded Britons said flights being offered by commercial airlines were ‘unaffordable’.
Mr Raab said: ‘We have anywhere between 300,000 to 400,000 to closer to a million British citizens travelling abroad. We don’t know for sure, we don’t keep a register of Brits travelling abroad, but that is massive scale.
‘We also need to be realistic, that if anyone is travelling out now, given the change of advice or indeed if they can stay safely in the countries where they are for a period – that is a choice they are going to have to think about.’ He said 28,000 Britons had phoned the helpline in Malaga, Spain, on one day alone.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab pictured at 10 Downing Street on Wednesday. He revealed he was in talks with airlines about operating new routes they had never flown before
Mr Raab said the Government was asking airlines to put on flights to countries they had never flown to before.
‘Sometimes we are going to be talking and asking the airlines to operate lines that they might not in the past have done,’ he added.
He also said he was hoping other countries would offer up space on their repatriation flights for stranded Britons abroad after the UK helped other countries.
MPs said there were up to 400 Britons stranded in Peru, with Mr Raab admitting there was ‘no obvious way out of the country’.
6k to get back from Peru
Desperate Britons stranded in Peru are being charged up to £6,500 to be flown home.
Around 250 British travellers are stuck in Peru after the government declared a 15-day lockdown and banned flights.
Yesterday the British embassy advertised £3,000 economy seats on a charter flight home – rising to almost £6,500 for business class seats.
Sarah Baxter, 42, from Bath, is stuck in Cusco in southeastern Peru and called for the government to subsidise the cost.
She said: ‘It is an outrageous amount of money that no one can pay.’ Usually a return flight to Cusco costs up to £800.
He said: ‘We need to work with the host government to make sure there is a window of opportunity for British nationals to get out.’
In Peru, Tom Brewerton, 26, who suffers from asthma and diabetes, said: ‘I was in the Amazon with no internet and then came back to civilisation and was told the last chance to get out is tonight and all the flights are booked.’
Tourists in Peru claimed Israel had sent flights for free for their citizens, the Germans had offered a flight for £918 and the French one for £643.
Sources told the Mail that airlines including BA and EasyJet have been granted special permission to fly empty planes to Morocco to rescue stranded customers.
But this has led to chaotic scenes at airports in Marrakesh, Tanjier and Fez, where panicked holidaymakers have described airport officials as ‘downright clueless’.
Thomas Reilly, the British ambassador to Morocco, said: ‘It is chaotic. There is no way that evacuating over 85,000 people in less than a week was ever going to be anything other than chaotic.’
Ryanair, Europe’s biggest airline, is expecting to ground its entire fleet of 300 Boeing 737-800s on Tuesday night with the exception of a ‘very small’ number of flights between Britain and Ireland.
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