Aviation leaders have given a broad welcome to the easing of quarantine requirements for double-jabbed travellers from July 19 but said more still needs to be done to reopen in a meaningful way.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps outlined the expected relaxation of travel to amber list countries ahead of the next review of the traffic light system for international travel on July 15.
Amber list countries include mainstream destinations such as mainland Spain and the Canary Islands, Greece, mainland Portugal, France and Italy plus the US and most non-Caribbean long-haul points.
British Airways chief executive and chairman Sean Doyle said: “We’re pleased to see this common sense approach which is already working safely for many other countries, but there is more work to do.
“While the quarantine requirement for ‘amber’ countries is being lifted for fully vaccinated UK travellers, the government needs to quickly extend this to all vaccinated travellers, agree a reciprocal deal with the US, add more countries to the ‘green’ list and reduce the need for unnecessary, expensive tests.
“This will allow the UK to catch up with other countries and send a message that Global Britain is now, finally, open again.”
EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said: “This move means Europe is turning green for people who are fully vaccinated. We have always said that vaccination is the key to unlocking travel and now millions will finally be able to reunite with family and loved ones abroad or take that long-awaited trip this summer.
“But with unnecessary testing staying in place, more needs to be done. We do not want to see a return to flying being a preserve of the rich and expensive testing could sadly make travel out of reach for some this summer.
“EasyJet is ready and able to ramp up – flying millions of seats to 85 green and amber list destinations this summer.”
Shai Weiss, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, said: “The UK government’s announcement is a positive development, providing assurance for consumers and businesses who can now book and travel with greater confidence.
“With the launch of a proof of concept trial on selected US and Caribbean routes from this week, we are ready to implement the new policy and to work with government and authorities to ensure safe and seamless international travel.
“The government’s announcement should now lead to significant changes to the ‘green’ list from next week and further relaxation of testing requirements for fully vaccinated passengers of all nationalities arriving into the UK from ‘green’ and ‘amber’ destinations from July 31.
“This approach is consistent with that taken by the US and the EU to fully vaccinated passengers, and will pave the way to restart of the essential transatlantic travel corridor, without which £23 million is lost each day from the UK economy.”
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of trade body Airlines UK, said: “This is a positive move towards the genuine reopening the sector has been looking for.
“Opening up the market for the rest of the summer, this announcement will provide far greater opportunities to travel, do business and see family and friends, and enable many more of our customers to book with certainty. The summer season essentially starts here.
“Airlines look forward to working with ministers and Border Force to ensure measures are in place by 19 July to provide a safe and streamlined experience at the UK border.
“We now urge the government to continue this momentum by adding many more countries to the green list next week and removing onerous testing requirements at its next review on 31 July, thereby opening up more non-quarantine travel to all.”
Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “This is excellent news that will give a much needed boost to millions of people across Britain looking forward to a more normal summer and reuniting with family and friends abroad.
“But the job isn’t done – to really kickstart the UK’s economic recovery, global Britain needs to get trading again. US business can get to the EU, but the UK remains cut off.
“The UK should open up travel to fully vaccinated people from more countries – particularly our key partners in the US – by the end of July.
“If the EU can do it, so can the UK. We’re working closely with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic to demonstrate it can be done safely, with checks on departure, and no need for delays at immigration on arrival.”
Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate said: “Plans to open up travel to amber countries for those who have received both doses of the NHS vaccine without the need for quarantine is another small step in the right direction. It capitalises on the UK’s world leading vaccination programme and will be very encouraging news for all those who want to start travelling again.
“However, with summer holidays just around the corner, we are approaching a crucial time for our industry and we urge government to remove other barriers inhibiting international travel, including the need for costly PCR tests for those who have been double vaccinated.
“At the very least, if tests are required, they should be the more readily available lateral flow tests or PCR tests carried out free of charge at an NHS facility, as has been done in France.
“We would also urge government to urgently follow the lead of EU counties to ensure that internationally agreed, coordinated protocols are in place so that processes when crossing borders to other countries are as smooth as possible, with no unnecessary queues, checks or costs.”
Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, said: “This is a significant step forward that will be a boost to airports and the local economies that rely on them. Many airports’ staff will be able to get back to what they do best: supporting businesses to reach customers abroad, enabling people to visit friends and relatives and help people take a well-deserved holiday abroad after a difficult period.”
But she added: “We are not out of the woods yet: the road to recovery will be long for our sector. It is vital for our industry that this policy is taken across the four UK nations, and we urge the devolved governments to follow the UK government’s approach.
“We will also work with the UK and devolved governments on extending this to inbound travellers as well, so that people abroad can come to visit relatives and friends in the UK, business leaders can come to invest in our economy and the inbound tourism industry can start its recovery.”
Balpa general secretary Brian Strutton said: “This is a good step towards the goal of safely opening up international travel, but there is still a long way to go. The Government needs to ensure safe countries make it in on to the green list and must do all it can to rebuild public confidence.
“The airline industry was the first in to the crisis and will be the last out. We need a sector specific financial package and an extension of furlough to stop skills being lost forever.”
Denis Kinane, immunologist and chief medical officer at Cignpost ExpressTest, said: “If quarantining is to be dropped, we need to ensure other measures are in place to protect us particularly from new variants.
“Currently those travelling to the UK only take a lateral flow test. But we know that these tests can miss up to half of asymptomatic cases. Instead I would urge the government to require gold standard PCR tests before entering the country.
“That would minimise the chances of people infected with a new more contagious variant entering the country and spreading it to friends, family and colleagues.”