Ryanair and the owner of Stansted airport will take the UK Government to court over the legality of its traffic light travel restrictions which have decimated the industry.
In court documents filed today the parties challenge “the Government’s lack of transparency, particularly around the lack of clear reasoning given for moving Portugal from the green list to the amber list and its decision not to move any amber list countries to the green list”.
It came as the government made noises about relaxing quarantine rules for vaccinated Brits returning from abroad, which boosted airline stocks such as British Airways owner IAG, Easyjet and Tui.
The BA owner is up 3.3 per cent. Easyjet shares are up 3.8 per cent, while Ryanair is 3.1 per cent higher and Tui 3.6 per cent this afternoon.
Although only Ryanair and Manchester Airports Group (MAG) are named parties, a number of airline partners are supporting the challenge.
The aviation businesses want more transperancy on the data which determines which destinations are deemed safe and which force travellers to self-isolate or quarantine.
The traffic light travel restrictions, which came into force in May, have but an abrupt halt to summer holidays and bookings to usual favourites Spain, France, Greece, Italy and Portugal.
Michael O’Leary revealed to the Telegraph that Ryanair had joined a High Court challenge led by the owner of Stansted and Manchester airports.
“[We are] trying to force the Government to at least either a) be more transparent [over the traffic light system], b) publish what exactly the thresholds are at which international travel … will be allowed to restart. Or c) get some injunctive relief against the Government generally on the back of vaccines that says the longer lockdown is restricting people’s freedom of movement, he explained.
O’Leary added: “The UK’s traffic light system has been a complete shambles from the beginning.
“This go-stop-go-stop policy is causing untold damage to the aviation industry and frustrating and upsetting millions of British families when they see their holiday plans and family visits disrupted by the Government’s mismanagement of international travel.
“We call on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to explain the scientific basis behind this system that the Government seem to make up as they go along and to establish a data-driven transparent model that could restore confidence in air travel ahead of the very crucial peak summer months.”
MAG, which owns Stansted and East Midlands airports, chief executive Charlie Cornish said the travel sector recognises “the critical importance” of protecting public health, but added the Government appears to be “unwilling to open up international travel by putting low-risk countries on the green list”.
Cornish added “The Government is not being open and we simply cannot understand how it is making decisions that are fundamental to our ability to plan, and to giving customers the confidence to book travel ahead.
However, this morning the UK Government threw the industry a bone as it indicated that fully vaccinated passengers may be exempt from some of the restrictions on travellers returning to the UK.
Fully vaccinated Brits could be exempt from self-isolation or quarantine if coming back from EU destinations such as Spain and Greece and even the US.
Jesse Norman, a Treasury minister, said the government was “certainly looking at all the options here”.
He told Sky News: “We don’t want to get left behind by countries which may be adopting a two jabs approach if it can be done safely and if it can be done carefully and securely.”
The next planned update to the traffic light list of destinations in due at the end of June.