The EasyJet website crashed earlier today as people hoping to get to France before it enforces tighter restrictions on visitors from the UK searched for last-minute flights.
From Saturday (December 18) at 00:00, people will only be allowed to enter France if they have an essential reason. French nationals and residents of any nationality are covered and allowed to enter but not people wishing to visit for tourism or work trips, scuppering family Christmas visits.
Before the EasyJet site crashed, searches for flights to France increased by five-fold (550%) and prices were high. A flight from London to Bordeaux with Air France for tomorrow (December 17), the day before the rules come in, was showing as €520 this afternoon.
The number of people looking at refunds for EasyJet flights was also up by 3,850%.
A search on EasyJet for flights from Manchester to Paris tomorrow (December 17) currently shows that 40 people are looking at tickets, while London to Paris routes are being viewed by 50 people.
Several flights scheduled to depart tomorrow are already fully booked.
This surge in bookings will of course decline when the new restrictions come into force, and travel companies have expressed their disappointment as they face a second Christmas period severely impacted by Covid.
Brittany Ferries spokesperson Nigel Wonnacott said: "We are obviously very upset about the introduction of additional controls for travellers from the UK.
“The Omicron variant circulates in both France and the UK.
“These new border controls seem to us to be both unnecessary and unwelcome. We have around 22,000 passengers booked to travel between the UK and France over the Christmas period (December 19 to January 2).
“While this is a far cry from the 2.5 million passengers we usually carry in a normal year, and excluding Covid, this new restriction does not help our recovery plan.
“Very respectful of the directives, the company will of course apply these new rules from tomorrow, Friday evening.”
A Eurostar spokesperson told The Connexion: “Our immediate focus is looking after our customers, who are once again facing disruption during the Christmas travel period. For those who need to change their plans, we are offering a fee-free exchange or e-voucher.
“We understand and fully support the need for governments to tighten travel restrictions in the interests of public health, to help contain the virus as new variants emerge, and we are advising our passengers accordingly.
“However, once the variant is established and being spread within communities, it is difficult to see what further purpose such restrictions serve. It is important that they are not in place any longer than is absolutely evidenced and necessary.
“Looking forward, we urge governments to commit now to a clear, consistent and sustainable approach to the response to these future challenges, which is more than the sudden switching on and off of travel at significant cost to people, businesses and the economy.”