The last two years have been a tumultuous time for holidaymakers with many Britons deciding to make plans to explore the UK countryside instead of the hassle of the ever-changing traffic light system of green, amber, and red-list countries. The pandemic may now be receding, but from flight compensation to roaming charges, British holidaymakers face a variety of new Brexit-related challenges when travelling abroad this year.
The British public may have a reputation for enjoying queues, but few people look forward to the long waits at airports as you slowly edge your way through customs. British passport holders used to enjoy fast-track lanes at European airports as members of the EU, but now British holidaymakers heading to Spain, France, Greece, or any other EU country will be forced to join those slow queues signed as for the “Rest of the world”.
In 2004, the European Union introduced EU Regulation 261/2004 to protect passengers against flight disruptions, cancellations, and other issues. Under this regulation, EU passengers that face disruption are given compensation for their troubles in the form of partial or full refunds and the ability to request a seat on another flight amongst other options.
The UK has left the EU, and many feared the rights under EU261 would be scrapped on the “Brexit bonfire”, but after long negotiations the UK government decided to maintain much of EU261 with the Air Passenger Rights and Air Travel Organisers’ Licensing (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations 2019, bringing into force what is effectively “UK261”. The major difference between the new law and EU261 is that “UK261” makes clear that passengers will be protected when travelling to and from UK airports not just EU destinations.
Health and travel insurance
It is always a good idea to take out travel insurance for holidays abroad, but the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) meant that it was simple to access state-provided healthcare emergency healthcare in any EU country if you were injured or fell ill whilst travelling within the EU. Now outside the EU, Britons cannot apply for EHIC cards, but are instead eligible for a new UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which provides many of the same benefits for treatment with EU member states, but unlike the EHIC does not cover treatment in Norway, Iceland, or Liechtenstein.
Whether you have a contract or PAYG smartphone, the chances are that you use it for more than a few phone calls and basic SMS. Today, we all use our smartphones for everything from picking up work emails to streaming Netflix and that means consuming significant amounts of data, which is measured by the GB. EU law prevented phone networks from charging one EU citizen more than another for the same service and so British holidaymakers were able to use their phones whilst travelling in other EU countries without additional charges for phone calls, social media, or anything else.
Now, with the UK outside the EU, these regulations no longer apply and the phone networks have responded by re-introducing roaming charges. Currently, most networks are charging contracted customer £1-3 per day to use their phone when travelling within the EU, whilst PAYG customers may be faced with paying even more.
As Brexit negotiations continue, many of the new challenges facing British holidaymakers may be solved in the coming years, but for now it is important holidaymakers are aware of the new challenges and expenses they may face when travelling abroad.