The UK’s airline industry has called for more countries to be added to the “green list” for travel this week, and it should be the “default” for most places.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps is due to update the current traffic light system for international travel later this week.
In a letter to Shapps signed by the bosses of BA, Easyjet, Jet2 and others, Airlines UK boss Tim Alderslade said the majority of Europe, the US, and the Caribbean should be added to the “green list”.
It comes as new rules exempting fully vaccinated US and EU citizens from quarantining on arrival in the UK kicked in.
“The world has changed since the inception of the traffic light system, and ‘Green status’ should increasingly become a default, given the changing risk equation, and mirroring the approach to domestic restrictions”, Alderslade wrote.
“On this basis there is no reason why, and it is essential, that much of Europe including the key volume markets, the US, Caribbean and other major markets, cannot turn green next week in time for the remainder of the summer peak.”
Speaking to Sky News, Boris Johnson said that people had to remember that the virus was still “dangerous”.
“I understand how much people plan and prepare for the summer holidays but we’ve also got to remember this is still a dangerous virus and that we must try and stop variants coming in, we must stop importing variants from abroad so we have to have a balanced approach”, he said.
Reduce ‘onerous’ testing costs
In addition, airlines called for Shapps to reduce the cost of testing, which he described as “onerous” and “disproportionate”.
“If the testing regime remains in place, with its cost and administrative burden, it will have a huge impact on UK aviation – acting effectively as around a £100 tax on flights, on average. It is unclear whether the Government has understood this risk.
“We have seen no evidence that this regime is necessary for fully vaccinated travellers or those from Green countries, or that effective, cheaper rapid tests cannot be used from higher risk destinations.”
The letter was co-signed by the bosses of BA, Easyjet, Ryanair, Tui, Virgin Atlantic and Jet2.
It comes amid a growing row after it was reported that the government is mulling plans to add even more categories to the traffic light system.
A new amber watchlist to track countries that could turn from amber to red quickly could cripple the travel and tourism sector, some Tory MPs have warned.
Conservative MP, and transport committee chair Huw Merriman, said the amber watchlist would be a “big red flag” for would-be tourists and would lead to holiday bookings for these countries to “collapse”.
He told the BBC: “In my view, we don’t need any more uncertainty, complexity, or anxiety for passengers, or this beleaguered sector. It just needs clarity. I would urge the government not to do anything with it.”
The PM said that he wanted to see “something as simple and as user friendly for people as possible”.
“On travel we’ve had to balance it because of the anxiety a lot of people have, I have, about importing new variants, bringing back the disease”, he added.
“We also have to recognise people badly want to go on their summer holidays, we have to get the travel industry moving again, we need to get our city centres open again, so we want an approach that is as simple as we can possibly make it.”