19 Dec

Millions of Brits head abroad for The Great Christmas and New Year Getaway

ABTA provides advice on travelling after Brexit

ABTA – The Travel Association estimates that over 4.7 million passengers are heading abroad over the Christmas and New Year period (18 December – 2 January), with the peak travel day predicted to be 21 December, and Christmas Day expected to be the quietest day for travel.

Christmas and New Year is also typically one of the busiest times of the year for booking holidays and Europe is the number one destination people plan to travel to next year. With lots of good value holiday offers at this time of year, it really pays to get in early.

There have been assurances recently from the European Commission and UK Government that, even in the event of a no-deal Brexit, flights will continue to fly between the UK and the EU and that UK visitors to EU countries won’t need a visa. ABTA is also providing practical advice to holidaymakers including on issues such as passports and driving licences via abta.com/Brexit.

This winter, holidaymakers are either heading off for some much-needed winter sun or to colder climes to enjoy the snow. Winter sun lovers are expected to head short haul to the Canary Islands, Alicante and Egypt, while Dubai and India are long haul favourites.

For those looking for a traditional Christmas experience in a snowy destination, Tromso and Lapland are expected to be the most popular destinations, while Munich and Frankfurt are other winter destinations which are also selling well this year. Popular New Year’s Eve breaks include the cities of Amsterdam, Budapest and Berlin. Domestically London, Edinburgh and Dublin continue to lead the way.

The Christmas getaway in numbers

Millions of people are leaving the country through the major airports, all of which are reporting high numbers. 560,000 are departing from Stansted, 377,500 from Luton, in addition to around 235,000 leaving from Bristol. Gatwick Airport expects to see 73,000 passengers fly out on 23December alone and Heathrow is also anticipated to be very busy with well over a million departing during the festive period.

Hundreds of thousands of passengers are departing from Scottish airports, with 262,184 travelling through Edinburgh alone, as well as large numbers leaving from other regional airports, including 33,615 from London Southend.

A significant number of people are also travelling across the English Channel by ferry or through the Channel Tunnel, with hundreds of thousands heading off on the Eurostar who report their busiest day will be 21 December.

Many are taking the opportunity to take a break in the UK, with trips to Cumbria and Lakes having sold well, as well as breaks in the South West of England.

Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive said:  

“Christmas and New Year are always very busy times for the travel industry as people head off to spend their well-earned holidays with family and friends. Whether holidaymakers are flying away for some winter sun, travelling to a snowy destination or staying closer to home, this year’s festive break looks set to be another busy one. It’s important people allow extra time for their journeys and check ahead for any disruption if travelling by public transport.

“Over the Christmas period, lots of people will also start to plan and book their summer holidays, and naturally they have questions about what Brexit means for travel. However, travellers can be reassured that regardless of the Brexit outcome, the EU and UK Government have said planes will still fly between the UK and the EU and travellers won’t need a visa.”

If you are still to book your Christmas or New Year getaway or are planning your holiday for next year, look out for the ABTA logo. By booking with an ABTA member you can travel with confidence and access a range of support, protection and expertise should you need it.

Brexit: advice for travellers

Will flights still operate?

UK citizens can be reassured that regardless of the Brexit outcome planes will still fly between the UK and the EU: if a deal is agreed then we will be in a transition period, meaning everything will stay the same until the end of December 2020 and flights will continue as normal. Even if we are in a no-deal scenario, the European Commission and UK Government have said that UK airlines will still be able to operate flights between the UK and the EU. The UK government has offered similar assurances for EU airlines.


Will I need a visa to travel to the EU after Brexit?

You shouldn’t need a visa to travel to the EU after Brexit. The European Commission announced in November 2018 that, even in a no-deal scenario, UK travellers can still visit the EU without a visa, providing the same is offered to European citizens visiting the UK.  The European Commission has said that from 2021, UK citizens will need to pay a fee (of around 7 Euros) for this visa exemption. This is part of a new electronic travel authorisation system applying to all third country visitors to the EU, similar to the US ESTA regime.


What happens if I book to travel after 29 March 2019 and my holiday cannot go ahead due to Brexit?

There is nothing to suggest that you will not be able to continue with your holiday plans after 29 March.  Even in a no-deal scenario, the European Commission and UK Government have said flights to and from the UK will still be able to operate.


Customers who book a package holiday with a UK travel company enjoy the most comprehensive consumer protection:  if you book a package, your holiday will be protected under the Package Travel Regulations, meaning you have a right to a full refund if your holiday can no longer be provided.


We have also identified actions travellers may wish to take in advance to help avoid unnecessary future disruption in the event of a no-deal scenario. The full advice is available at abta.com/brexit.


Notes to editors

For further information, contact:

Tom Sommerfelt, Senior Media Relations Executive, 020 3117 0531

Emma Brennan, Head of Media & PR, 020 3117 0514

ABTA press office, press@abta.co.uk or 020 3117 0596

Out of Hours:  Contact the Duty Press Officer via pager: 07623 951 339

Web: www.abta.com

Twitter: @ABTAtravel

About ABTA

ABTA has been a trusted travel brand for over 65 years. Our purpose is to help our Members to grow their businesses successfully and sustainably, and to help their customers travel with confidence.

The ABTA brand stands for support, protection and expertise. This means consumers have confidence in ABTA and a strong trust in ABTA Members. These qualities are core to us as they ensure that holidaymakers remain confident in the holiday products that they buy from our Members.

We help our Members and their customers navigate through today's changing travel landscape by raising standards in the industry; offering schemes of financial protection; providing an independent complaints resolution service should something go wrong; giving guidance on issues from sustainability to health and safety and by presenting a united voice to government to ensure the industry and the public get a fair deal.

ABTA currently has around 1,200 Members, with a combined annual UK turnover of £38 billion. For more details about what we do, what being an ABTA Member means and how we help the British public travel with confidence visit www.abta.com.