The Specialist Travel Association (Aito) is advising its tour operator members on how to keep up to date on the latest flight information as they battle to bring home more than 200 customers still stuck overseas.

It follows the Foreign Office’s announcement of a government partnership with airlines to repatriate “tens of thousands” of tourists stranded overseas amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Aito has around 120 tour operators and said the current coronavirus situation was the “most testing” issue members had ever had to deal with.

Head of commercial Bharat Gadhoke said the association was advising operator members to sign up to the Foreign Office country alerts on its website to ensure they receive emails on the latest flights and repatriation efforts. They can check the latest situation on special ‘return to the UK’ tabs on each country on the FCO’s website.

Aito is also telling members to ensure they or their clients are in touch with the local consular offices in the destination they are in and to follow the FCO and local consular offices’ Twitter feeds to get the latest updates.

Gadhoke said: “It really is about keeping the communication loop going and it’s easier to do that on the internet. The situation is rapidly changing.”


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He added: “I think now there are more independent travellers left abroad than those on packages but our members have told us they have around 200 in Australia and New Zealand.

“The governments of the countries have to agree to flight transits taking place and there has to be diplomatic conversations to alleviate this, it’s not as easy as just sending an aircraft.

“We are telling members to look at the ‘return to the UK’ tab on the FCO’s website which gives information on each country, and register themselves [to get information alerts].

“This is something government has to organise and they have to establish logistics and numbers of passengers.”

He said for Aito operators the issue was “very personal” and added that  members were determined to make sure their clients were safe.

“I don’t think there is a single operator that is not concerned about the situation. It’s the most testing thing they have had to deal with,” he added.