British Airways warns passengers flying to Portugal next week it is illegal despite it being on green list


British Airways has baffled Britons heading to Portugal next week after it warned passengers booked on flights from 17 May that it will still be illegal to go on holiday.

In a message sent out to customers booked on Heathrow-Faro flights next Monday, seen by The Independent, the airline said: “You can only travel internationally from England for legally permitted reasons. This does not include holidays.”

The warning also says passengers must complete a Declaration to Travel form, even though they are being scrapped after Sunday.

It reads: “You may be required to show the form at the port of departure. It is an offence to enter a port of departure or embarkation without a properly completed form if you are travelling internationally. Some job-related exemptions apply.

“You may be issued with a fixed penalty notice and directed to return home if you do not have a valid reason for travel.”

After being contacted about the message by i, BA said it is “in the process of adjusting our emails to customers” to reflect the new rules.

Last week the Government confirmed a “green list” of countries for which international leisure travel can resume on 17 May.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps held a press conference last Friday to announce the new travel rules and green list countries (Photo: Tolga Akmen/PA Wire)

Portugal, Israel and Gibraltar are on the list and people will be able to visit these countries and not have to isolate upon their return, provided they test negative for the virus after their arrival.

However as things stand most will still be unable to travel there because of Portugal’s current travel requirements. Portugal’s borders are currently closed to most Britons  – although ministers have said they hope to welcome British tourists “restriction-free” from mid-May.

The country is due to end a state of emergency on 16 May but there has not been an official confirmation yet.

Rita Marques, Portugal’s tourism minister, previously told the BBC: “I do believe that Portugal will soon allow restriction-free travel, not only for vaccinated people, but those who are immune or who test negative. We hope to welcome British tourists from 17 May.”

Current guidelines on Portugal’s rules from the Department for Transport says: “Travellers from the UK are permitted to enter mainland Portugal and Azores but only for essential purposes and if a returning resident.”

People are currently not able to travel on holiday to Australia, New Zealand and Singapore, also on the green list, as they are closed to UK tourists.

João Fernandes, President of Algarve Tourism, is optimistic, he told i: “We are obviously delighted with the news that Portugal will be on the green list, and are very ready to welcome British visitors to the Algarve. Our amazing beaches, world-class golf courses, restaurants, bars and water parks are all open from mid-May and the sun is shining. With 44 per cent of our international visitors coming from the UK in a typical year, the absence of British visitors was noticed and missed last summer.”

Flights are resuming from mid-May, so hotels are prepared and offering some great packages. There is plenty of availability at the moment.”

The Foreign Office has updated its foreign travel advice guidance for Portugal and the other green list countries on its website, and no longer advises against all but essential travel to them.

Any advice on changes to entry requirements are made on the date they are changed, i understands.

Asked about the message to passengers, BA is understood to now be working on ensuring customers are given the correct and most up-to-date information in light of the change in government policy.

A statement sent to i said: “At British Airways we are looking forward to welcoming our customers back on board. We are in the process of adjusting our emails to customers, to reflect the change in the government’s travel advice to certain destinations.” 

The Department for Transport told i they were not sure why BA sent out that message and they were trying to clarify it with them, but that from a UK perspective the new rules mean you don’t need a reason to travel to a green list country after 17 May.

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