Heathrow Airport: Quarantine hotel booking system a ‘mess-up’ as stranded couple say no more availability

A London couple who are trying to return to the UK from South Africa have described the government’s Covid hotel quarantine system as a ‘mess’.

Owen Hancock, 35, and Emily Mennie, 30, who live in Tooting, face the unenviable task of 10 days in a hotel quarantine due to South Africa being added to the Red List following discovering the Omicron Covid mutation.

The couple changed their flights to arrive at Heathrow Airport on Saturday December 4, but when they tried to book a room at the quarantine hotel they were told it was fully booked.

READ MORE:Hospital boss warns residents to stay safe as Omicron variant spreads

The couple, who recently married, must now rebook PCR tests and change their flights to return to the UK on a day when quarantine rooms are available.

When the couple spoke to MyLondon on Wednesday, December 1, Owen had been put on hold by British Airways for around three hours due to a long queue and the phone line being cut.

The couple faced financial hardship due to the cost of quarantine

Owen and Emily were already frustrated with the government’s response to the Omicron variant after they weren’t “given the opportunity to return without the cost of the hotel” and believe the government should pay as they had no choosing to return as flights have been banned in the UK.

On Wednesday, Emily said: “To add insult to a giant financial wound, we can’t even book hotel quarantine anymore, as there are no rooms available.

“Not only are we incurring a huge cost, but we can’t go home now because the government hasn’t acted together – it’s a mess.”

When the couple attempted to book the hotel on Wednesday, the system confirmed that there were no rooms available for the date the couple wanted to return to the UK.

The automated message read: “Unfortunately, due to customer demand, there is no availability for the date selected. Please rearrange your travel dates if possible, or try your search again later today.”

Owen and Emily, who both work in digital marketing, spoke of the financial burden hotel stay costs will cause them, with using a credit card being their only option.

Owen said: “As if it wasn’t stressful and unfair enough to have to find the almost £4,000 extortion for the hotel quarantine, we now have to rearrange PCR tests and flights because the British government has imposed a policy that they cannot live up to.

“To top it off, we spent over an hour on the phone with British Airways trying to rebook our flights – not knowing when the hotel’s quarantine rooms would be available – and the call alone cost over £100. “

Their couple have started a petition on Change.Org to ‘reduce the crazy cost of hotel quarantine in the UK’.

Last Thursday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced: “Public safety is our priority. We are taking this precautionary measure to protect the progress we have made in the fight against the virus across the country and, as always , we will continue to keep our measures under review.”

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