Thousands of festive holidays axed after threat of quarantine for UK travellers

There some empty ski lifts in Austria. Credit: AP

Thousands of holidaymakers have been left feeling frustrated during the festive period after their trips have been cancelled due to coronavirus restrictions imposed by destinations.

Winter sports operator Crystal Ski has axed its trips to Austria departing on December 27 after the country introduced tougher entry requirements due to the Omicron variant.

Austria announced on Wednesday that arrivals from the UK will be required to quarantine for 10 days from Saturday unless they are fully vaccinated including a booster dose, and have evidence of a recent negative PCR test.

Crystal Ski issued a message to customers on Thursday night which stated: “Unfortunately, due to the short notice of the new Austrian entry requirement, we’ve made the difficult decision to cancel our holidays to Austria on 27th December.

“We know that last-minute testing is extremely challenging, even more so given that the tests would need to be taken on Christmas day or Boxing day.

“With limited testing availability and capacity nationwide, we’re aware the vast majority of our customers would’ve been unable to meet this new requirement to travel.

New Austrian rules mean ski holidays have been cancelled Credit: David Cheskin/PA

“We’re sorry for the disappointment this has caused.” Affected customers are being offered a full refund within 14 days, and an incentive to rebook.

Those due to depart for Austria on January 1 or 8 are able to change their plans without paying a fee until December 29.

Travel firms experienced a surge in bookings for winter sports holidays in Austria after France introduced a ban on UK tourists last week.

Cruise line MSC Cruises has cancelled four sailings from the UK by its ship MSC Magnifica due to pandemic restrictions across Europe.

The cruises, due to depart from Southampton on December 21 and 28, and January 4 and 11, were scheduled to call at France, Germany and the Netherlands.

The Netherlands has been put into lockdown until at least mid-January, while Germany has joined France in prohibiting UK tourists.

Meanwhile, Ryanair has reduced its planned January capacity by a third.

A spokesman for the airline said: “The impact of these recent government travel restrictions, in particular last weekend’s ban on UK arrivals into France and Germany, and the suspension of all EU flights to/from Morocco, has lowered Ryanair’s expected December traffic from between 10-11 million, to a lower range of 9.0-9.5 million.

“In responding to these restrictions, Ryanair has now cut its January capacity by 33%, reducing its expected January traffic from approximately 10 million to 6-7 million.”

Rory Boland, editor of magazine Which? Travel, said: “The huge disruption to travel plans over the festive period serves as a reminder that anyone booking a trip abroad during the pandemic faces a significant risk of losing some or all of their money.

“Anyone looking to book a holiday should choose a provider that has a reliable flexible booking policy or, if appropriate, a package holiday, as these come with stronger financial protections.

“A good travel insurance policy will continue to be essential, and it’s also advisable to book with a credit card to give yourself further protection.”