The plane touched down at London Gatwick at 3.58am with 155 passengers onboard, two minutes ahead of the 4am deadline after which they would have been required to pay thousands of pounds to stay 11 nights in a quarantine hotel. Montenegro was added to the travel red list last Thursday, alongside Thailand.
Passengers celebrated when the pilot announced, “Ladies and gentleman, welcome to London Gatwick. The time now is 3.58am.”
In response to the change in the traffic light travel system, easyJet had moved its Monday departure from Tivat to London Gatwick a day earlier.
However, the journey didn’t go as planned with passengers describing the experience as “tense”.
The plane was unable to depart from Tivat airport after a technical failure and the airport closed at 8pm.
Working against the red list clock, the airline organised coaches to ferry passengers across the Croatian border to Dubrovnik airport where a flight was heading for Manchester.
At the border, 155 of the easyJet passengers made the crossing while others were refused entry, according to The Independent.
The plane left the airport in Dubrovnik just before 2am for what usually is a two hour and 40 minute flight to the UK.
Passenger Joanna Lonergan told The Independent: “The plane was tense after boarding. One man near the front demanded a guarantee we’d make it back to UK by 4am and threatened to get off the plane if not.”
She added: “Take off was brutal – people being sick and the engines really going. He Tannoyed just before landing to say ‘This thing doesn’t fly any faster’.”
A spokesperson for easyJet told the newspaper: “We are very sorry for this extremely difficult situation which arose from the country status change to ‘red ‘and the technical issue.
“We did everything we could including flying a second repatriation aircraft in to try and get all customers back to the UK in time for the deadline.
“We are very grateful to our pilots and crew for managing to bring back 155 customers back just ahead of the deadline.
“We feel for those customers who we not permitted to enter Croatia by border authorities and so are supporting them with their additional accommodation and travel needs.”
Easyjet have offered £350 to every traveller in compensation due to air passengers’ rights rules for the long delay.