Thursday 22 April 2021 12:01 am

Government plan leaves international travel restart 'in jeopardy'

The “lack of clarity” in the government’s recent Global Travel Taskforce report leaves the reopening of international travel on 17 May “in jeopardy”, MPs have said.

The Transport Select Committee has this morning said that the government’s framework for restarting travel lacks the necessary detail to actually facilitate such a process.

And where such detail is provided, it adds, the costs incurred by consumers “may be disproportionate to the risks” involved.

The government released its report on 12 May, but it was met with an instant backlash from MPs, airlines and travel firms due to the lack of specifics involved.

Airlines were particularly annoyed by the lack of clarity on which countries would be on the “green list” for travel, while others warned that plans to test even those going to low-risk countries risked making holidays unviable for all but the richest.

In response, MPs on the committee said that ministers should reveal which countries will fall under what restrictions by 1 May.

At the moment, ministers are insisting it is too early to do so, but expect the details to be revealed in early May.

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The committee also calls on the government to lay out an affordable testing regime. At the moment, PCR tests cost an average of £100 in the UK, almost double the cost in some parts of Europe.

Grant Shapps has said that ministers are looking into alternative options to the costly PCR test.

Committee chair Huw Merriman said: “The aviation and travel sectors were crying out for a functional report, setting out clear rules and offering certainty. This is not it.

“Where the industry craved certainty, the Government has failed to provide it. For UK citizens seeking to travel to the parts of the globe where the vaccine has been delivered as rapidly as the UK, the cost to families from testing could be greater than the cost of the flights. 

Aviation body Airlines UK got behind the MPs findings. Chief executive Tim Alderslade said:

“Airlines agree with the Committee that consumers need as much clarity as possible as to where they can travel to from 17 May, as soon as possible, and that testing costs must come down further so they are affordable to families.

“Good progress has been made by the Government on costs since the GTTF report was published but there is more that can be done, in particular reducing the cost of NHS PCR tests and removing the levying of VAT on all aspects of the testing process.” 

A DfT spokesperson said: “People have made immense sacrifices, both through lockdown and by coming forward in astonishing numbers for the vaccination and so it is only right that we don’t throw away the progress we’ve made through taking any unnecessary risks.

“That’s why the Taskforce has set out a cautious, but deliberate path to unlocking international travel in a safe and sustainable way, from 17 May at the earliest.”