Hundreds of UK holidaymakers whose Mexican adventures were cut short arrived 80 minutes ahead of the 4am deadline – after which they would have had to go into hotel quarantine.
Mexico is the latest high-profile country to be added to the government’s “red list” of locations regarded as presenting a high risk of importing variants of concern.
Travellers were given 78 hours’ notice to leave the Latin American nation – with some of them effectively having only a day trip.
British Airways added four extra flights from Mexico City and the main resort airport of Cancun.
BA2202, the final departure from Cancun before the deadline, was brought forward by six hours in order to arrive at London Gatwick ahead of the deadline. The plane landed ahead of schedule at 2.40am.
The latest round of “traffic light” changes has opened up more of Europe to travellers, with France’s controversial “amber plus” status removed.
After 20 days in which all arrivals to the UK were required to quarantine even if they had been fully vaccinated, France now has the same amber status as most EU nations – meaning travellers who have had both jabs can avoid self-isolation on arrival in the UK.
Anyone who arrived from France before 4am on Sunday morning must complete the quarantine as planned.
The French Indian Ocean island of Réunion – which was blamed for the amber plus rating, yet from which self-isolation was not obligatory for vaccinated travellers – has been moved to the red list, along with nearby Mayotte.
The price of hotel quarantine for a couple will rise by 55 per cent from £2,400 to £3,715 on 12 August.
India – where the Delta variant was first identified – has been moved to amber, which means that family visits, holidays and business trips will be much easier.
The UAE, Bahrain and Qatar have also be moved from the red to the amber list – despite their continuing status as international hubs.
When the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, placed the UAE on the red list, he said: “The specific issue in the UAE is one of transit. It’s because they are a major transit hub.”
Seven European countries have been added to the “green list” of quarantine-free destinations.
Austria, Germany, Latvia, Norway, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia have been moved from amber to green – making them more accessible to travellers who have not been vaccinated. However, some of the countries have strict rules against UK visitors.
The Foreign Office travel advice for Austria begins: “Entry to Austria from the United Kingdom is currently prohibited by Austrian law.”
The main omission from any changes is Turkey, which remains stuck on the red list – effectively writing off the remainder of the peak summer season.
The next round of changes is due to be announced on 25 August, taking effect on 29 August. But it is thought that, with the main summer holiday season over, ministers may ease travel rules more widely.