U.K.’s Shifting Quarantines See Travelers Paying Hefty Airfares

The U.K.’s fluctuating quarantine restrictions are again leading to punishing airfares for vacationers forced to rush home on short notice.

Travelers scrambling to return from Portugal before a rule requiring self-isolation kicks in on Saturday morning faced paying more than 500 pounds ($640) for a one-way ticket on Friday, based on fares from both British Airways Plc and Jet2holidays Ltd.

Airlines have been vocal critics of the U.K.’s quarantine regime, claiming it stifles demand. But carriers have in turn been criticized for charging high prices to travelers blindsided when a quarantine is imposed with little or no warning.

“At a time when the airlines are going to be hugely reliant on public goodwill, I would question whether it’s the right decision to be making lots of holidaymakers extremely angry about the prices they’re paying,” said Rory Boland, a travel editor at Which?, a consumer advocacy group.

U.K.’s Shifting Quarantines See Travelers Paying Hefty Airfares

When the U.K. added France to its quarantine list in August, 160,000 Britons vacationing in the country faced a chaotic scramble for tickets.

A spokesman for EasyJet Plc said pricing is demand-led and the airline doesn’t artificially increase fares. British Airways said it has reviewed its schedule and added additional flights from Portugal, while a Jet2 spokesperson didn’t immediately comment.

The reason fares rise “is largely the system logic which is triggered at higher capacity,” said John Strickland of airline advisory firm JLS Consulting. “It doesn’t mean the airlines aren’t making a bit more money on a few flights at the last minute, but it’s not some malevolent plan.”

Travelers who arrive in the U.K. from Portugal after 4 a.m. on Saturday will have to self-isolate for 14 days. Hungary, French Polynesia and Reunion were also added to the list.

Sweden was removed, meaning voyagers from the Scandinavian country will no longer have to quarantine when arriving in the U.K. Fares reflected the change: A ticket on a Finnair flight from Stockholm to Heathrow on Saturday cost 32% more than on Friday.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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