Travel Operators Braced for Hit as France Curbs Trips From U.K.
(Bloomberg) -- Travel firms are braced for thousands of cancellations after France curbed U.K. arrivals in a bid to slow the omicron variant of Covid-19, limiting trips at what’s usually one of the busiest times of the year.
Eurostar International Ltd., which operates high-speed trains from London to Paris via the Channel Tunnel, said customers are “once again facing disruption during the Christmas travel period,” after similar upheaval last year.
The company, owned by French state rail operator SNCF, said Thursday that bookings had halved even before the new measures as Britain introduced restrictions, with ticket exchanges outstripping sales. Customers have the option of switching to a later date for free or taking a voucher for future use.
Eurostar said it’s reasonable to impose curbs to defend public health but that they must not remain “any longer than is absolutely evidenced and necessary.”
Brittany Ferries, based in Plymouth on England’s south coast, said the French announcement comes as “a hammer blow to our Christmas season.” It said that with omicron spreading in France as it is in Britain, “further border controls seem as unnecessary as they are unwelcome.”
The French plan comes after the U.K. recorded 78,610 positive Covid-19 cases on Wednesday, the most since the start of the pandemic. The daily tally jumped to more than 88,000 on Thursday.
The measures, which kick in at midnight on Friday, effectively ban leisure and business visits by Britons while reducing the validity of coronavirus tests to 24 hours and requiring arrivals to self-isolate for up to seven days. French citizens and their families as well as residents can return home.
Among airlines, EasyJet Plc is most exposed to the U.K.-France market in the next two weeks, with 419 scheduled flights, followed by Air France on 217 and British Airways with 179, according to aviation data provider Cirium.
Some 81 flights, equating to almost 14,000 seats, are scheduled for Saturday, when the restrictions begin.
The Airlines 4 Europe lobby group joined with airports counterpart ACI Europe to condemn tighter curbs in countries including France, Greece, Italy and the U.K., saying they go beyond recommendations from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control published Wednesday.
British Airways is keeping its operations to France under review, a spokesman said. Discount specialist EasyJet didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.
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