Friday 5 March 2021 3:07 pm

Brits must prove flights are essential as government cracks down on illegal travel

People wishing to leave the UK from Monday will have to prove their travel is essential, as the government attempts to crack down on illegal holidays in the run-up to leaving lockdown.

Passengers will now be required to fill out a mandatory form listing their reasons for travel before leaving the country. Non-essential travel is banned under current stay at home orders, apart from in exceptional circumstances.

Airlines will be legally obliged to notify passengers booking trips that the form must be completed before travelling, and people without a valid form may be denied access to their booked service. 

Forty days after the measures were first announced, spot checks will be rolled out across airports and transport hubs, and those that fail to complete the form will faces between £200 and £6,400.

Checks on international travel were first announced in January, after home secretary Priti Patel said it was “clear that there are still too many people coming in and out of our country each day”.

Patel added that other border measures would be toughened up to “reduce passenger flow” and protect the UK’s “world-leading” vaccination programme.

Foreign travel will not resume until 17 May at the earliest under the Prime Minister’s roadmap for leaving lockdown.

Airlines and travel companies reported a surge in bookings last week after Boris Johnson announced the provisional date, with shares in Easyjet, Tui and Rynaiar rebounding after months of grounded flights.

However, Patel last week warned that it was still “far too early” to be booking overseas summer holidays, and that ministers will need to assess the data “at every single stage”.

The PM has appointed Michael Gove to oversee a Global Travel Taskforce, which will report on 12 April “with recommendations aimed at facilitating a return to international travel as soon as is possible”.

Ministers are in discussions over whether to roll out international “vaccine passports” that would allow the resumption of foreign travel for those who have been immunised.

The European Commission has already said it will propose legislation for an EU-wide digital vaccine passport in March, in a move that is being discussed with UK leaders.

Some companies have decided to take matters in their own hands in the meantime. Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said earlier this week that the budget carrier is adding a tool to its app to allow passengers to upload vaccine certificates and negative coronavirus tests to speed up the return of international flights.