The UK’s leading airlines have written to transport secretary Grant Shapps demanding a review of the traffic light system that allows a “sustained and meaningful restart” of international travel.
Airlines UK warns in a letter to Shapps that the sector remains “in a deeply precarious situation at the height of summer, putting many aviation jobs at risk”.
The association, whose members include easyJet, Ryanair, British Airways, Jet2, Virgin Atlantic and Tui Airways, describes the government’s decision making on international travel restrictions “frustrating, last-minute and opaque” and calls for “meaningful changes”.
It warns that without “significant changes”, economic support for the sector “will be essential”.
The government is due to carry out a review of the traffic light system by July 31.
In the letter, Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade tells Shapps the traffic light system “has so far failed to achieve the sustained and meaningful restart to international travel that was intended.
“In Europe, passenger bookings recovered to 50% of pre-crisis levels in June compared to just 16% in the UK.
“Demand to the UK from the US remains only around 20% of 2019 levels, whereas to the EU it is around 65%.”
He points out: “The decision to remove Portugal from the green list, closely followed by the Balearics . . . less than a month after initial inclusion on the green list, brought travel purchasing back to the same fraught position as last year.”
These decisions “alongside adding France to an ‘amber-plus’ list two days after the latest update . . . represent examples of the frustrating, last-minute and opaque decision-making”.
Airlines UK tells Shapps: “The impact of the France decision cannot be under-estimated, with the risks associated with travelling to amber countries (and being forced to self-isolate) now paramount in people’s minds.
“Without a significant move of countries off the amber list to green, there will be very little prospect of a change to consumer booking attitudes.”
The letter notes that “by contrast to nightclubs, [the] government continues to insist on universal, expensive PCR tests for fully vaccinated travellers arriving from countries where background case rates are a fraction of levels here”.
It argues: “We continue to believe the traffic light framework can safely be adjusted to provide a pathway for all vaccinated people to travel without restriction.”
Airlines UK suggests a series of changes including “quarantine exemption for all fully-vaccinated passengers arriving from amber countries, including the EU and US” and “moving many more low-risk countries on to the green list”.
It also calls for PCR tests on travellers from green countries to be scrapped, for “more proportionate” testing and isolation requirements for amber countries, and for the removal of VAT on PCR test prices.