Tour operator TUI has cancelled all British holidays to mainland Spain from Monday until August 9, after the UK government’s decision to require travellers returning from the country to quarantine.
The move comes after the government imposed a 14-day quarantine on people arriving in the UK from Spain.
The newly-imposed rule to self-isolate, abruptly introduced at midnight Saturday hours after being announced, follows a surge in coronavirus cases in parts of Spain in recent weeks.
Other major British airlines have so far held off cancelling flights to Spain.
The firm said all those going to the Balearic and Canary Islands could still travel as planned from Monday.
The airline industry has reacted with dismay to the decision to impose the quarantine, calling it a big blow.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) is advising against all but essential travel to mainland Spain. Quarantine measures apply to those returning from mainland Spain, the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands, such as Majorca and Ibiza.
British Airways is still operating flights, but said the move was “throwing thousands of Britons’ travel plans into chaos”.
Budget airline easyJet is also maintaining a full schedule, as is Jet2.
Wizz Air said it would continue to operate flights to Spain “as scheduled for the time being”, but added that it is “re-evaluating this schedule in light of potential diminished demand”.
Rob Griggs of Airlines UK said the move was a “big blow” to the aviation sector.
He told the BBC that individuals should be tested for coronavirus instead of having to self-isolate automatically.
“We back the idea of voluntary testing on arrival or before you leave,” he told BBC Breakfast.
“We think testing would… enable individuals to come back without the need for quarantine if they test.”
Uncertainty and confusion
Mr Griggs also called on the government to be “a little more specific” in its advice, since the latest spike in coronavirus cases in Spain did not affect the whole country in the same way.
Tui said it would contact customers affected and offer them the right to cancel or amend their holidays.
“All customers currently on holiday can continue to enjoy their holiday and will return on their intended flight home,” it added.
Tui said health and safety was its highest priority, but urged the government to “work closely” with the travel industry.
“This level of uncertainty and confusion is damaging for business and disappointing for those looking forward to a well-deserved break,” it added.
Quarantine measures for UK travellers were first introduced in early June. But after pressure from the aviation and travel industries, the government and devolved administrations published lists of countries exempt from the rules.
The decision to remove Spain from those lists was announced on Saturday following a spike in Spanish coronavirus cases, with more than 900 new cases reported on Friday.
Spanish officials have also warned a second wave could be imminent as major cities have seen cases surge.