Business travel companies extend repatriation service to stranded holidaymakers

A group of business travel companies is offering to repatriate travellers stranded abroad back home to the UK – for a fee. The Focus Travel Partnership consortium normally works with corporate travellers but has extended its services to the wider public. It will charge around £60 for the service.

With airports, embassies and borders closing around the globe due to the coronavirus crisis, tens of thousands of travellers are stuck overseas wondering how best to get home. Morocco and Peru are two particular blackspots, with strict quarantine measures in force in Peru and chaotic scenes at Marrakech airport as passengers attempt to get on one of the remaining flights home. But they are by no means the only destinations where UK travellers are stuck.

Adding to the stress is a lack of repatriation flights. When UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab announced the new advisory against all but essential international travel for UK nationals on 17 March, he said it was unrealistic to expect the government to offer emergency repatriation for many tourists: “No one should be under any illusions. It is costly, it is expensive to coordinate.”

Focus Travel Partnership CEO, Abby Penston, said: “The travel landscape is incredibly complex at the moment, with airlines cancelling routes and grounding aircraft due to the rapidly changing government advisories. Our partners, who have live-data feeds on the status of airlines and who are used to fulfilling complicated customer requirements, are specialists best-placed to help out.”

The service is only for new bookings, not existing bookings. Another difficulty facing stranded passengers is the cost of new tickets, with some airlines being accused of charging extortionate fees to change their reservations.

Penston said 15 companies out of a total of 60 members of the consortium are pooling resources to provide a 24/7 helpline.

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