"I've got customers who can't afford to come back."
UK travellers, including British Asians, who are returning from ‘red list’ countries are flying home via Turkey to avoid hefty hotel quarantine fees.
Passengers are stopping in Istanbul and staying in hotels there for a fraction of the cost they would have to pay in Britain.
One hotel worker in Istanbul said he had seen British nationals flying in from Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. All three countries are on the UK’s ‘red list’.
Many travellers had said they could not afford the cost of quarantining.
As long as they isolate at home for 10 days after returning from a non-red list country, they are not breaking UK Covid-19 rules.
British citizens returning from a ‘red list’ country must pay to quarantine in a government-approved hotel.
It costs £1,750 for a single adult, while a family of four with teenage children would pay £3,700.
Guests are mostly restricted to their rooms for the duration.
Bradford-based travel agent Ascher Khawaja, of Oltrax Travel, said the UK quarantine costs are too expensive for some of his clients returning from Pakistan.
He said: “I’ve got customers who can’t afford to come back.”
To ease their burden, Mr Khawaja said he arranged over 15 journeys home via Turkey.
Although a three-week lockdown was introduced in Turkey due to rising infections, it is not on the UK’s ‘red list’.
Mr Khawaja continued: “With the hotel factored in, it works out at around £600 compared to £1,700-plus.”
Anyone entering Turkey must have had a negative Covid-19 test within 72 hours. They must also have a negative test when leaving.
Businessman Mohammad Saad flew to Pakistan on March 23, 2021, to attend a funeral and was due to fly home on April 10, the day after Pakistan was added to the ‘red list’.
When he could not change his flights, he and his son flew to Turkey instead. Mr Saad said the cost was around £450 for 10 days in Istanbul.
He told the BBC:
“It’s like an extra holiday. Then you can fly back into the UK from Istanbul without any hotel quarantine.”
Student Hashir said he had met other British nationals at the airport in Istanbul. He is set to return to the UK on May 7, 2021.
On the cost of returning to the UK directly, Hashir said:
“There’s no way I have that money, I’m a university student.”
Taxi driver Zulfiqar Ali travelled from Pakistan to Istanbul on April 24, 2021. He said:
“I paid £100 for 11 nights. It’s a double bed, a TV and a fridge. It was online and food was very cheap.”
Hotel workers in Istanbul said British travellers were using Turkey as “a bridge”.
One worker said his hotel had booked British passport holders travelling from Pakistan, Bangladesh and India.
Turkey has since tightened its rules on people arriving from India.
The manager of another hotel said, through his membership of an international booking website, he could see there had been a rise in people travelling from Pakistan and India to Istanbul.
The UK’s Department for Transport said people who had not been in a red list country for the past 10 days were not prevented from entering the UK, but should isolate at home.