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Foreign Office advises against all non-essential overseas travel – full statement

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The Foreign Office has just issued a statement advising against all non-essential foreign travel for at least the next 30 days.

The full statement is below.

On the upside, it is possible that such Foreign Office guidance will allow the Government to offer financial support to UK airlines on the basis that it has caused them to ground their few remaining international flights.

You can see the original press release here.


Today the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has advised against all non-essential international travel, initially for a period of 30 days. This advice takes effect immediately.

This change in travel advice reflects the pace at which other countries are either closing their borders or implementing restrictive measures in response to the global coronavirus pandemic.

Often there is little or no notice when countries take these steps and restrictions are also being imposed in areas where no cases of coronavirus have yet been reported. They are therefore very difficult to predict.

British people who decide that they still need to travel abroad should be fully aware of the increased risks of doing so. That includes the risk that they may not be able to get home, if travel restrictions are put in place. Anyone still considering travel to be realistic about the level of disruption they are willing and able to endure, and to make decisions in light of the unprecedented conditions we face.

We are not currently advising British people to immediately return to the UK if they are overseas, except for a few countries detailed in our travel advice. However, British people should keep in mind that flights may be cancelled at short notice or other travel restrictions may be put in place by foreign governments.

If people do want to return to the UK soon, then they need to take account of the fast moving situation and plan accordingly, while flights remain available in many places.

Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, said:

“UK travellers abroad now face widespread international border restrictions and lock downs in various countries. The speed and range of those measures across other countries is unprecedented.

So I have taken the decision to advise British nationals against all non-essential international travel.”

Whether travel is essential or not is a personal decision and circumstances differ from person to person. It is for individuals themselves to make an informed decision based on the risks and FCO advice. Anyone still planning to travel should check the validity of their travel insurance.

UK inward and outward travel has already fallen by a significant amount since the outbreak of coronavirus. Ryanair, Virgin and EasyJet have cut flights by 80% this month and IAG has decreased capacity by 75%.

The UK’s extensive diplomatic network is continuing to work around the world to support British people at the greatest risk of exposure to the virus. In the last week 430 changes have been made to FCO Travel Advice – more than in the entirety of 2019.

We will continue to do everything in our power to get those British nationals affected the care, support and advice they need. We are also working urgently to ensure international governments have sensible plans to enable the return of British and other travellers and, crucially, that they keep borders open for enough time to allow people to return home on commercial flights.

British nationals who become ill overseas should, in the first instance, seek care and support from the country they are in.

This guidance follows the domestic measures announced by the Prime Minister on Monday and forms part of the national effort to meet the international challenge presented by coronavirus.

Comments (166)

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  • Don says:

    Info for anyone in same boat. I had a BA Holidays trip booked this weekend to Nice/Monaco. Hadn’t phoned them to cancel yet, but just received an email from BA saying they’ll refund it, and if I’d applied for a voucher previously (I hadn’t) then the email supersedes it. Appreciate them being proactive tbh and saves me a few hours being on hold calling them! A friend on the same trip but different booking got a phone call earlier today offering the refund so look out for any phone calls too

    • Ele says:

      I received the same email re a BA Holiday I had booked for next week. I too thought it very proactive having feared a lot of time would be spent sorting out the cancellation (already tried unsuccessfully on MMB). Well done BA.

    • Jill (Kinkell) says:

      No email for me yet . I did the voucher thing, but would rather have refund. . Friend who had a big trip booked withVirgin has just heard her tickets moved to open status with everything carried forwards til end of April 2021. She’s pleased with that.

  • Paul Pogba says:

    A sauce/source tells me easyJet could be toast by the weekend.

    • Dan says:

      Lots of speculation, it a lot of facts

      • Dan says:


      • Paul Pogba says:

        I don’t have any detail, just told by a friend that works at the luton head office – asking for proof seemed a little insensitive given they’re more worried about their job, home, family etc. It looks like the credit facility is desperately needed. BA/IAG are probably conflicted given they also need the cash but recently created a stink about Flybes proposed state aid.

    • ChrisBCN says:

      Anyone ‘could’ be… You’ll get a better opinion by looking to see how much cash equivalent reserves they have.

  • Martin says:

    I wonder if someone can please help me regarding travel insurance. I was travelling to the US, departing during the 30 day FCO ban. Will BA now cancel my flight? I was starting a travel insurance claim and it required proof of cancellation of trip – but I’m reluctant to cancel the trip myself in case that compromises my claim. Can someone please advise me? Thank you very much.

    • stevenhp1987 says:

      I’d hold out. BA will likely cancel the flights.

      They’ve not had the time to fully react yet.

    • Lula says:

      Surely your insurance should pay, given that the FCO has advised against all but essential travel now? Having said that I spoke to my insurer earlier, as I’m booked on a flight with BA that hasn’t been cancelled, but which I clearly can’t take, and they said they weren’t considering claims until nearer the time.

      • Martin says:

        thank you very much for the helpful reply

      • The Original David says:

        Why can’t you take your flight? FCO “advice” doesn’t actually stop anyone from doing anything they want to…

  • Nick_C says:

    I would be surprised if BA stop all flights, but it would be nice if they could publish their planned emergency timetable.

    Finnair have published their planned flights for April. Their only long haul route will be Tokyo.

    I would have thought the alliances would keep a skeleton service (no pun intended) going on key routes.

    • marcw says:

      Problem is, if there’s no demand… no one is flying empty planes. Finnairs “core” essence is broken, that’s why they cancel 99% of LH flights. Only Tokio as LH flight.

      • Rhys says:

        IAG stated they may fly some planes empty due to essential cargo

        • marcw says:

          But then they are not empty if carrying cargo.

        • Howard says:

          I was wondering how cargo would manage, I understand that about 50% of cargo goes in the belly of passenger planes. How easy is it to strip seats out of passenger jets to make space for more cargo? I seem to recall JET 2 doing this to maximise use of their aircraft.

          • Rhys says:

            They wouldn’t do this. No passengers means less hold luggage ie more cargo.

          • Charlieface says:

            Depends on the cargo. Some cargo will be light and bulky, but most wide-bodies have far more space for cargo than they can normally carry given the weight.

  • Graham says:

    I was meant to return to LHR from SEA this evening but was in Vancouver B.C. (travelled up by Amtrak) when the US announced a restriction on U.K. travellers. This resulted in the FCO updating their website on Sunday to advise against all but essential travel to the US. I checked my travel insurance and the website warned that entering a country against the advise of the FCO would invalidate my insurance.

    Could get hold of BA on Sunday or my insurance company so made arrangements to return to LHR directly from Vancouver with Air Canada. The BA website was only offering the option to cancel and request a voucher for my return flight instead of request a re-route from Vancouver which was being suggested as an option on their website.

    Question is, my original return BA flight is scheduled to depart in 12 hours from SEA, can I claim the voucher as suggested on their site or, as suggested in their terms, am I entitled to nothing because I had already completed the outbound portion of my booked?

    • AJA says:

      Per the voucher T&Cs applicable to Flights
      10. If you have already started your journey the voucher is not applicable.

  • Tom says:

    Our insurance is saying that we have to rely upon our travel company to refund rather than them act based upon this advise.

    Guidance please

    • Novice says:

      Well I suppose then it depends on who you booked with.

      I always use Trailfinders because I usually have complicated add-ons. And I didn’t have to ask for a refund, they emailed to let me know that they are cancelling everyone’s holiday in March and April and will refund full amount or use the amount to book something later in the year.

    • Lady London says:

      Yes always contact wherever you booked first. Then if you don’t get a result check your insurance policy and contact your insurer if covered.

  • Philip Davey says:

    Just received my “Pre-flight services email” from BA for my flight booked to Bangkok this coming Sunday – thought it was an offer for a refund. As it stands i am only being offered a “voucher” despite the Govnt advice against travelling. Surely they need to start offering CASH REFUNDS following the announcement !

    • david says:

      Have you spoken to your travel insurance?

      • Philip Davey says:

        Didn’t need to – this is on their home page
        Goodtogoinsurance –

        Please note, our policies do not provide cover for cancellation, abandonment or curtailment claims if the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises against all or “all but essential” travel. Our policies will also not cover any claims caused by or relating to Coronavirus, COVID-19, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-COV-2), any mutation of Coronavirus, COVID-19 or SARs-COV-2 or any pandemic or fear or threat of any the above. We also can not cover any claims relating to any fear or threat concerning these viruses. This general exclusion applies to all sections of cover except for the Emergency Medical Expenses section. Important information about Coronavirus.

        • Boon says:

          But did you check if this restriction is for “new” insurance sold now, or for existing policies?

          The devil will be in the detail of your policy wording when you bought the policy, not the current wording for new policies.

        • Lady London says:

          So what d o e s the policy cover? 🙂

          • mvcvz says:

            And why did you purchase it?

          • tony says:

            I’m in the same boat – different insurer but exactly the same wording. I just assumed that given the policy is invalidated if the FCO deploy this guidance, that this would also trigger a payout.

            I think there’s a TCF point to be pursued here, but there was an article in The Times at the weekend suggesting 58% of travel insurance policies won’t cover this scenario, which is quite frankly astonishing.

          • Lady London says:

            If different insurer but exact same wording then sounds like same underwriter for both. It’s the underwriter that decides what claims get paid. Lots of different brand name policies on the High St are in fact same policy same underwriter different price according to the brand. Brand can vary some conditions but most don’t seem to.

            Checked the ts and cs from when you bought the policy? They can’t change your conditions once bought unless you agree. These conditions may only apply to new policies.

          • Mike says:

            Low cost travel insurance – generally means a no pay out policy. I used to (a while ago) work in holiday insurance claims processing (as a student job) the company policy was “we don’t pay – ever”. We had a long list of stock phrases to use to reject the claim…and if you were getting near agreeing to pay a claim it had to go to a supervisor for them to find a loop hole to reject the claim or just request even more information from the claimant….

          • Polly says:

            Mike, that sounds just like the AXA experience we had a while back, such nit picking right down to the doctors wording on a letter. One word had to be changed on the consultants report, 3 requests later, to a busy ortho consultant in Bali, and after 6 months they finally paid up most of it..
            Shame they seem to be snapping up many of the insurance companies policies atm.

          • Lady London says:

            I think I’ve said previously I’ve bought my travel insurance policies for quite a few years now by checking which underwriter – and avoiding AXA because seen too many such reports about nitpicking, inadequate policy terms and downgrading of cover as soon as Axa becomes the underwriter.

  • Paul says:

    I’m currently in South Africa due to fly back from Johannesburg on Saturday night, how likely do people think that they will completely cancel flights? They were doing two A380s a day, so seems like plenty of capacity to fly back.

    • Lady London says:

      Looks like you will get back. Suppose it’s possible they wil substitute a smaller aircraft – will take them a while to organise that across all routes I suspect.

      If your flight is delayed or rescheduled then no compo but you are entitled to duty of care as BA is a European airline. So hotel and meals till flight plus transport to the flight and Comms such as internet if charged by hotel. See if BA will organise these promptly if you are affected as you should give them a reasonable chance to but if huge delays in them sorting you out these things, if you can get your own you will be able to claim under eu261 for reimbursement.

      • Alice Smith says:

        This is completely wrong information.

        • Lady London says:

          ? European airlines are subject to EU261 on the flight back – non-European airlines are not.

          For flights departing Europe both European and non-European airlines are subject to Eu261.

          Giving the rights I mention.

          • Lady London says:

            Naturally we hope the flight leaves on time, or that if it doesn’t an overnight would not be needed until whatever replacement flight is available. But those are the rights of a passenger in this case under the duty of care part of eu261.

            Compensation is a different part of eu261 and if course in the current circumstances would not apply.

            Does that answer your hesitation @Alice?

      • Lady London says:

        *sorry not transport to the flight. Mistype: transport to the hotel (if needed under eu261 rights).

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