After restrictions on travelling abroad were eased on 17 May, thousands of tourists piled on to planes and headed for their holidays abroad.
Only a small number of foreign countries were on the UK's green list, including holiday hotspot Portugal.
However, last week it was announced Portugal would be moved from the green to amber list of countries on Tuesday.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the government was following a safety-first approach.
Airports soon became inundated by British tourists trying to return home to avoid having to quarantine.
Once Portugal is placed on the amber list from 04:00 BST, holidaymakers are advised not to visit and returnees must isolate for 10 days.
At East Midlands Airport, the responses of those landing back on home turf were mixed.
Philip Townsend, a retired GP from Leeds, had been out in the Algarve checking on his second home with his wife Maria.
The 58-year-old criticised the UK government's communication.
"I don't think there's been enough notice," he said.
"The government said there would be a watch list announcement, and there never was.
"The cases in Portugal are probably at a lower level than the UK, hospitalisations and deaths are very low - where we were in the Algarve is very, very safe."
Pamela and Rod Broadberry, from Derbyshire, said they did not think switching categories for the country made sense, and worry how businesses in Portugal will cope.
"I think [they] are disappointed, they need the business," said Ms Broadberry.
"They're desperate for us to go, they're on their knees," agreed Mr Broadberry.
Giorgio Del Grosso, from Leicester, was due to return on Monday, and noticed the increase in demand for seats.
"Our flight was empty until a couple of days ago, but then it filled up last night," the 46-year-old said.
Couple Sayde Eggerton and Lewis Walker, from Shropshire, also managed to get back on schedule, and expressed sympathy for people in Portugal.
"We haven't had to mess about with changing anything, so [we're] safe and sound," said Mr Walker.
"You can see how it's impacted them over there," said Ms Eggerton.
"Loads of things [were] closed, and they were just starting to open again.
"Everyone we spoke to said they want people to be going there, because obviously it's a tourism country and that's what they rely on."
Jordan, 30, from Sheffield, said he was "fed up with it all now".
Mark Wilson-Dunn, from Barton-under-Needwood in Staffordshire, was more philosophical about the difficulties faced by returning tourists.
"We knew there was a risk going on holiday knowing that it could go wrong, so the risk is ours," the 61-year-old said.
A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: "We recognise that this is a challenging time for holidaymakers and are working across government to help reduce disruption.
"However we have been clear from the start that travel will be different this year and will continue to take a cautious approach to reopening international travel in a way that protects public health and the vaccine rollout."