Confusion for travellers as BA cancels dozens of Italy flights over coronavirus

British Airways has cancelled 36 flights on Monday to and from northern Italy – but other airlines, including easyJet, are continuing to operate.

BA cancelled the flights, mainly to Milan and Venice, after the Italian government imposed unprecedented restrictions on swathes of territory to try to limit the spread of coronavirus. 

The Foreign Office has published three different versions of its advice to British travellers for Italy in the past 24 hours. Until early on Monday morning it stopped short of urging against travel to the country apart from 11 small towns in the north.

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The latest advice warns against travel to the entire Lombardy region, which includes Milan, and 14 provinces (roughly approximating to counties) which include Modena, Parma, Piacenza, Reggio Emilia, Rimini, Padua and Venice.

The effect of this warning is to allow travellers who are on proper package holidays (with flights and accommodation booked together) to cancel and obtain a full refund.

It has no legal force to compel airlines to refund passengers who have bought flight-only arrangements.

The official advice says: “British nationals remain able to depart Italy without restriction. Residents of other parts of Italy are permitted to leave the isolation areas to return home. 

“Otherwise entry into and exit from these areas is forbidden without official permission on the grounds of strict necessity; the authorities have confirmed to us that this will be granted for reasons such as medical need or work requirements.

“Travellers should check flight details with airlines. Additional restrictions include the closure of museums, cultural institutions and the suspension of all public gatherings, social events including pubs, nightclubs and games halls.

“Religious ceremonies and funerals are suspended. Ski facilities in the affected mountain areas are closed. Restaurants and bars remain open from 6am to 6pm.

“Across the whole of Italy, museums and cultural institutions are closed.”

Meanwhile, British Airways is telling passengers booked to travel to Milan, Venice or Bergamo up to 4 April 2020 that they can claim a full refund.

For travel to Turin, Bologna and Verona up to 4 April 2020, they can rebook up to and including 31 May 2020 without the usual change penalties.

But easyJet is continuing to fly and, at 6am on Monday morning, appears to be sticking rigidly to its normal terms and conditions.

The budget airline says: “If you cancel, miss, or do not take your flight unfortunately we will be unable to provide you with a refund.”

It is telling worried passengers who want to speak to someone at the airline: “We are currently experiencing extremely high call volumes and appreciate the inconvenience it causes.

“To reduce waiting times please contact us within 48 hours of your departure date.”

One passenger, “Stu C”, tweeted easyJet to say: “I can’t wait to enter the recently quarantined zone in northern Italy next week, assuming you’re still incredibly reluctant to cancel any flights?”

The airline responded: “We will be flying as normal. We won’t be refunding but you can change your flights on manage bookings for a fee or cancel and receive any air passenger duty back and an insurance letter to claim for the booking via your travel insurance.”

But also on Twitter, easyJet told many passengers: “We’re reviewing our flights to Milan Malpensa, Milan Linate, Venice and Verona airports for the period from now until 3 April 2020.

“We will be cancelling a number of flights to and from these airports on 9 March. A full refund or free transfer will be given.”

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