British travellers and expats stuck overseas as transport links are cut due to the coronavirus face finding up to £800 each to buy a seat on a UK government-chartered rescue flight – if they can get one.
The Foreign Office has struck a deal with 14 airlines to fly stranded travellers home from airports all around the world and is funding the measure with a £75 million hand-out.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps reckons around 300,000 Brits are still unable to return home as road, rail, ship and air links close due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But despite the promises, only 2,000 have flown back to Britain from seven countries on government flights in more than two weeks.
The most expensive seats costs £1,000.
Trips cost up to £800
The Foreign Office says the cost depends on the flight distance from London.
Any flight cost under six hours away is capped at £400 a person, while trips between six and 10 hours cost £600 and any flight longer than 10 hours costs £800.
The Foreign Office said: “The government has committed up to £75 million to help thousands of British people return home.
“To deliver value for money and put on as many flights as possible, anyone returning on a government charter flight will need to contribute towards their ticket based on the length of the journey.
“The amount charged will reflect only a proportion of the overall cost of the charter flight, which is why we have set aside the fund.”
Lockdown thousands fear missing flights
Passengers who cannot pay can apply for an emergency loan from the government.
The charter flights will only run on routes where commercial flights are unavailable.
To find out where chartered flights are due to take off from, check out the Foreign Office travel advice for coronavirus.
Many expats and travellers are worried that they will miss their rescue flight because they are marooned in towns and cities sometimes hundreds of miles away from a main airport and cannot travel due to local restrictions.
British consulate staff have explained that they are working on arranging local flights and other travel arrangements but have no confirmed dates yet.