On Saturday Boris Johnson announced London and parts of the south east will be placed into a tougher new Tier 4 to tackle the spread of coronavirus.
Under the tighter restrictions, which came into force today, anyone living in London and affected areas in the South East are banned from flying abroad unless it’s an essential journey such as a business trip.
The tougher rules affect everyone in London, Kent, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire, Surrey (excluding Waverley), Gosport, Havant, Portsmouth, Rother and Hastings, Bedford, Central Bedfordshire, Milton Keynes, Luton, Peterborough, Hertfordshire and Essex (excluding Colchester, Uttlesford and Tendring).
While those living in other tiers were advised not to travel into the area to catch a flight – Heathrow, Luton and City London Airport are all in Tier 4.
But despite the stringent new rules some airlines have said they will not be offering refunds to passengers who cancel trips due to the new rules.
Virgin Atlantic is one of those airlines.
The Virgin Atlantic Twitter account posted: “Refunds are only permitted for cancelled flights. If you have booked with us directly, you have the option to rebook for a new travel date up until 31 December 2022.
“If you have booked with a third party, please contact them directly for your options.”
British Airways are taking the same stance as its rival.
Lisa Hunter tweeted at the airline saying: “Just been moved into Tier 4 yet just been told on phone we cannot have a refund for flights booked for over xmas as ”the flight isn’t cancelled'”.
‘It’s now illegal to travel out of Tier 4 areas so surely this cannot be the case? Heathrow is in Tier 4!’
BA replied: ‘Hi Lisa, flights are continuing to operate, as essential travel is still permitted. We’re afraid a full refund is only permitted if your flight is cancelled.”
A BA spokesperson told MailOnline that customers who are unable to travel, or choose not to, can request a voucher as part of company’s Book with Confidence policy.
As always, if a customer’s flight is cancelled they are entitled to a full refund or a voucher, and we always contact any customers whose flights may be affected to discuss their options.’
A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson told MailOnline if a customer is unable to travel the company offers “as much choice and flexibility as possible” to help them change or amend their plans.
Fees are being waived for customers who wish to change the name on tickets and/or alter the dates up to two times if they are travelling before 31 December 2022.
Both airlines are only issuing refunds for customers whose flights have been cancelled.
However budget airlines EasyJet and Ryanair will refund Tier 4 passengers who are unable to fly due to the new restrictions.
A spokeswoman for EasyJet told The Mirror: “Impacted customers have the option of transferring to an alternative flight free of charge, receiving a voucher or receiving a refund. Customers will be notified if their flight is cancelled.
“Due to latest restrictions, we are aiming to make managing your flights as easy as possible and will be removing the change fee for flight transfers online via Manage my bookings. We strongly recommend for you to check the status of your flight and self-serve online, as our customer services team are facing a large volume of calls”.
“All other customers can make changes to their booking without incurring a change fee up to 14 days before departure online via Manage Bookings at easyJet.com.”
A spokesman for Ryanair confirmed to The Mirror that they will also be offering refunds.
He said: “For any flights to/from the UK in the coming days (Dec 20 -24) which are banned by EU Govts regulation, all affected customers will receive an email notification and they will be offered practical alternatives including free moves (no change fee applies) or refunds if they so wish.
“In the case of all other flights to/from the UK which are permitted to fly, Ryanair will operate these flights to facilitate all passengers who need to travel for business reasons, and are booked on them or wish to move to these flights.
“If any such passengers (booked on operating flights) do not wish to travel during the next 5 days prior to Christmas, then Ryanair will facilitate a free move of their booking (no change fee applies) to any date up to March 15.”
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The newly created Tier 4 is similar to the November lockdown and dealt a devastating blow to the 17.7 million people it will affect just days before Christmas.
A crippling blow was also delivered to non-essential businesses that were able to stay open under the Tier 3 rules as they have been forced to close their doors.
Chief medical officer for England Professor Chris Whitty said the UK had now informed the World Health Organisation that it had concluded a new mutant strain of coronavirus could spread more quickly.
The new variant of Covid-19 has ripped across the South East sending infections spiralling as it can spread 70% quicker than other strains.
The announcement also sparked a mass exodus in London with chaotic scenes captured at the city’s major train stations as hundreds crammed onto the last train services out of the capital before the new rules kicked in.
Meanwhile Italy, Belgium, Holland, France and Germany have all banned flights from the UK over fears of the mutated virus.
EasyJet told the Mirror any customers affected by the ban will also be offered a refund.
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