Friday 4 June 2021 2:50 pm

Airline stocks dive and bosses fume after Portugal axed from UK travel 'green list'

Airline stocks dropped as London’s markets opened for trading today after the government removed the one popular holiday destination from its travel “green list”.

Wizz Air led the fallers on the FTSE 250, dropping 3.5 per cent by the mid-afternoon, while Easyjet shed 1.9 per cent.

Easyjet had added hundreds of extra flights to Portugal when it was added to the “green list” three weeks ago, but from Tuesday it will be moved to the “amber list”.

That means that travellers returning from the Iberian country will have to isolate for 10 days on their return.

As a result, Jet2, which had been planning on restarting its flights on 24 June, will now wait until 1 July.

Chief executive Steve Heapy called for “complete openness and transparency” from the government, saying he “simply could not” understand the decision.

On the FTSE 100, IAG dropped 0.6 per cent, leaving it among the highest fallers. Engineer Rolls-Royce, which earns revenue on the basis of the number of hours airlines fly using its jet engines, also fell 1.3 per cent.

The decision to remove Portugal – and add no new countries to the “green list” – was met with despair, anger and bafflement by aviation bosses.

Easyjet chief executive Johan Lundgren said the decision “simply wasn’t justified” by the science.

“This shock decision to add Portugal to the Amber list is a huge blow to those who are currently in Portugal and those who have booked to be reunited with loved ones, or take a well-deserved break this summer. 

“When this framework was put together, consumers were promised a waiting list to allow them to plan. Yet the government has torn up its own rule book and ignored the science, throwing peoples’ plans into chaos, with virtually no notice or alternative options for travel from the UK.”

Michael O’Leary of Ryanair, which also added hundreds of flights, said the government was “just making it up as it goes”.

And trade body Airlines UK described the decision as a “body blow” for the industry, which has been desperately clinging on after the worst crisis in aviation history.

Today the association wrote to the transport secretary asking him to lay out the reasons – and the data – that informed the decision.

“The Global Travel Taskforce report stated clearly that the Joint Biosecurity Centre will publish data and analysis to support the process of allocating countries. This has not happened, and decisions on country allocation remain clouded in mystery, making it impossible for airlines and our customers to plan”, wrote chief executive Tim Alderslade.

“It is entirely reasonable given the stakes involved that restrictions are proportionate and risk-based, and that businesses and travellers affected are able to scrutinise decisions based on transparent data.”

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick this morning told the BBC he did not know how many cases there were of the new Nepal variant of the coronavirus.

UK travel restrictions (as of 08/06).

Jenrick said it appeared to be a “further mutation of the Indian variant”.

When asked how the Nepal variant could be used as a reason to remove Portugal from the green list if he did not know how many cases there were, Jenrick said: “We have seen that there are cases of it, they are picking this up, and we took the decision that it was better to be cautious whilst we learn about this new mutation of the variant.”