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Leigh Turner

Ambassador to Austria and UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna

6th April 2020 Vienna, Austria

Getting 391 British Nationals home safely

A plane approaches London Heathrow, appearing to grow larger as it nears the runway.  As British airways flight BA0961 lands safely, a collective sigh of relief is heard at the British Embassy in Vienna.

In the last two weeks, the British Embassy in Vienna has helped 391 people get out of ski resorts in Austria to return home to the UK. This is part of the Foreign Office’s huge international task of getting travelling British nationals home, as international transport routes close.

On 3-5 April, a group of 129 seasonal ski workers, including British and Irish nationals, returned to the UK from quarantine areas in Tyrol and Vorarlberg. To do this, they needed to register with the embassy for special permission to leave a quarantine zone. We then worked closely with the Austrian authorities – local and national – to make the journey happen, including a police escort to the German border and alerting German police to their arrival with the help of our colleagues in Germany. From the border, we got them to Munich Airport, where they caught a commercial flight back to the UK.

Together with 262 British nationals and 6 EU citizens we helped leave quarantine areas on 27 March, on a flight arranged by their tour organiser and supported by the embassy, the latest travellers brought our total to 391 people helped to return home in a little under two weeks.

Article in Kronen Zeitung

We are thankful for the excellent cooperation from the Austrian authorities, including the Federal Ministries of Health and Foreign Affairs, Land Tirol, Land Vorarlberg, the Austrian Police, the tourist authorities, British Airways and the many local districts who made this happen.

It was great to see the happy reactions from families who could finally welcome their loved ones back home.

Meanwhile Embassy staff will continue to support the few British travellers who remain in the country. If you are still in Austria but live in the UK, you should make your way home now while commercial options are still available. Please check our travel advice for latest information.

Transport options are decreasing as the Austrian government announced an extension to existing measures until the end of April. Metropole magazine has produced a useful overview in English here.

Finally, on behalf of all Brits in Austria, I would like to offer my sincere thanks to all Austrian health organisations. Like so many of your colleagues all across the world, you are doing an outstanding job. Thank you!

Please continue to follow guidance from local authorities.

Stay safe and stay home!

About Leigh Turner

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of…

I hope you find this blog interesting and, where appropriate, entertaining. My role in Vienna covers the relationship between Austria and the UK as well as the diverse work of the UN and other organisations; stories here will reflect that.

About me: I arrived in Vienna in August 2016 for my second posting in this wonderful city, having first served here in the mid-1980s. My previous job was as HM Consul-General and Director-General for Trade and Investment for Turkey, Central Asia and South Caucasus based in Istanbul.

Further back: I grew up in Nigeria, Exeter, Lesotho, Swaziland and Manchester before attending Cambridge University 1976-79. I worked in several government departments before joining the Foreign Office in 1983.

Keen to go to Africa and South America, I’ve had postings in Vienna (twice), Moscow, Bonn, Berlin, Kyiv and Istanbul, plus jobs in London ranging from the EU Budget to the British Overseas Territories.

2002-6 I was lucky enough to spend four years in Berlin running the house, looking after the children (born 1992 and 1994) and doing some writing and journalism.

To return to Vienna as ambassador is a privilege and a pleasure. I hope this blog reflects that.