'Insufficient flights' for Scots desperate to get home - travel chiefs

Large numbers of Scots are stranded in India and Pakistan and desperate to get home, travel chiefs said today.

Scots are struggling to find flights to get them home

Others are stuck in Dubai and countries such Australia, New Zealand the USA.

Some travel agents have more than 100 customers trying in vain to get flights back to Scotland.

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

The Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA), which represents agents, said there were insufficient flights to get everyone back

Scottish Passenger Agents Association president Joanne Dooey.

President Joanne Dooey told The Scotsman: “There are many Scots who have been on holiday who are still trying to arrange transport home.

“It’s difficult to put a number on this as so many people will have booked their travel independently and not through a travel agent.

“We know of cases of Scottish travellers who remain in Australia, India and Pakistan for example, who have not yet managed to secure a seat on a flight home and who are desperate to return.

“One of our travel agent members alone has 60 people stuck in India and almost 70 travellers in Pakistan.

“Another member has 25 Scottish travellers still overseas, mostly in Australia.

“A further agent has around 100 people still overseas, mainly in Australia, New Zealand, USA and Dubai.

“Fortunately, many were on holiday to visit friends and relatives and therefore have somewhere to stay courtesy of their families in the meantime.

“But it’s still important they are all brought home.

“It looks as if there are definitely not enough scheduled flights to bring these people home, or even to hub airports [such as Heathrow].

“The only way they will be able to return is on a government charter.

“It’s not clear if these charter flights will return any Scottish travellers or if this will be to hub airports.”

Many airlines have significantly cut flights, but Qatar Airways last week resumed Edinburgh services from its Doha hub to help repatriate both Scots and visitors to Scotland trying to get home because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

KLM is still flying between Aberdeen, Edinburgh , Glasgow and its long-haul hub in Amsterdam.

Air France has retained some flights between Edinburgh and its Paris hub.

The SPAA, which will celebrate its centenary next year, is the world’s oldest body of its type, with more than 200 members and associate members.

Ms Dooey added: “The only [UK] Government repatriation flight we know of currently is the flight from Peru, which has been well publicised.

“There was also a flight from Los Angeles this week which brought some Scots who had been stranded on cruise liners back to the UK.

“It’s not clear if there are any further government flights planned and we’re worried the UK seems to be lagging behind other countries.

“For example, it appears Germany has organised 160 flights for its citizens to repatriate them from 60 countries.

“There is a possibility that UK travellers will be offered, via the British Embassy, 40 places on a German government flight from Jakarta to Frankfurt this Friday.

“The situation is complicated by the closing of airspace over some countries.

“For example, Pakistan airspace is currently closed so no one can leave.

“India has grounded all flights for a week.

“Whilst some travellers are staying with friends and family, not everyone is, and for those staying with families and acquaintances they are not always able to remain where they are.

“It’s a natural instinct to want to get home in a crisis and it should be remembered some travellers will live alone and want to get back to their houses for security reasons.”