UK

Romanian Airlines Were Not Sold Out Over New Year, Despite Daily Mail Claims

24/02/2014 13:40 GMT | Updated 25/02/2014 09:59 GMT
Sean Gallup via Getty Images
SOFIA, BULGARIA - DECEMBER 07: A young Roma couple walk with suitcases outside the main bus station on December 7, 2013 in Sofia, Bulgaria. Restrictions on the freedom of Bulgarians and Romanians to work in the European Union are due to run out by December 31, though several EU leaders, including British Prime Minister David Cameron, are considering imposing temporary restrictions to cut the flow of Romanians and Bulgarians arriving in EU countries. Many EU nations have voiced concern over too many Bulgarians and Romanians arriving and applying for social benefits. Romania and Bulgaria are both EU members though their citizens do not yet receive the same rights as citizens of other EU nations. (Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

Dire warnings from Ukip and right-wing commentators that flights from Romania and Bulgaria were packed to the rafters and coaches sold out months in advance of January this year have proved misjudged, after a survey of travel companies found that they, um, weren't.

The Daily Mail has now been forced to clarify headlines insisting flights from Romania and Bulgaria were full at the beginning of the year when European working restrictions were lifted.

The Daily Express had carried a similar story, predicting "sold out" flights.

romania bus station

A young couple walk with suitcases outside the main bus station in Sofia, Bulgaria

Six airlines and three coach companies, contacted by pro-immigration lobbyists Migration matters, all said they had not seen any increased traffic from the two eastern European countries since the New Year.

On January 1st, Keith Vaz and other key members of the Home Affairs Committee said they would greet Romanians at Heathrow airport, but met very few.

And though British employers has advertised 10,000 jobs to Romanians in the first month of 2014, 70% up from last year, there are less than one applicant per job, according to one of the country's biggest recruiters.

BA, Iberia, Blue Air, Tarom Air, Easy Jet, Air Bulgaria, Wizz Air, National Express, Evrobus and Eurolines Romania were all contacted in the first two weeks of February by Migration Matters.

The Daily Mail has since posted an update, which reads: "Our reporters in Bucharest and Sofia were informed by travel agents and on websites within the countries that there was very limited availability on flights and buses to London at the start of the new year.

"We have since been made aware, however, that some readers were able to find a larger number of flights leaving Bucharest and Sofia at the beginning of January with availability, with fares starting from £122.

"We understand that some seats on buses bound for London were also available at the time. We are happy to clarify that some of the additional flights were put in place before January 1."