Baltic Governments To Repatriate Citizens In The UK On Charters

Baltic governments have announced a plan to bring back some citizens from the UK on charter flights. The flight, operated by airBaltic, departed the UK on Monday and carried 144 citizens home. The repatriations are only for people in limited circumstances who must return to their countries.

airBaltic A220
airBaltic operated the flight on behalf of the government of Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia. Photo: Airbus

Repatriations are back

Repatriation quickly became a popular term in March and April when countries globally flew hundreds of special flights to bring back their citizens. However, the recent spread of a new, more infectious COVID-19 strain in the UK has forced countries to close their borders again.

Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia were among the many European countries to close their borders in the last fortnight. However, the move left thousands of passengers stranded during the peak holiday travel season. To bring back those who needed to return for emergency reasons, the three governments used a charter flight from airBaltic.

airBaltic A220-300
airBaltic is the flag carrier of Latvia based in Riga and has bases in Vilnius and Tallinn. Photo: Airbus

According to LRT, each of the three countries was given 48 seats each on the A220 from London Gatwick. Lithuania reportedly received more seats since the other two countries did not reach their quota of passengers.

Flight complete

The repatriation flight, BT 1654, departed from London Gatwick bound for Riga, Latvia at 17:34 local time on 28th December. The flight took just over two and a half hours, landing in Riga at 22:16 local time. From there, passengers bound for Lithuania and Estonia took connecting flights to their final destination.

airBaltic repatriation map
The repatriation flight was not open for sale to the general public. Data and Map:

Some might find it odd why there was a repatriation flight considering Estonia, and many others, have already said they will lift the ban on the UK by January. In a statement to The Baltic Times, Latvia Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said,

“We are talking about nationals who have social, humanitarian or legal reasons to return. These are, for example, people who will not be able to stay in the UK after January a due to Brexit, or nationals who have been on a business trip to the UK and cannot get back.”

For passengers on the repatriation flight to Latvia, they must present a negative test that was less than 48 hours old and quarantine for 10 days in a designated hotel (paid for by the state).

Flights slowly resume

While most countries quickly shut their borders to the UK, many have since made plans to reopen after the initial panic. France, Belgium, and the Netherlands have allowed flights once again, albeit with new testing and quarantine requirements.

Silhouette landing heathrow
Countries have started reopening their borders to the UK. Photo: Getty Images

More countries will likely follow in the next week, although rules will remain tighter for intra-European travel for the foreseeable future.

What do you think about the UK flight ban? Have they affected your travel? Let us know in the comments below!