03 Jun Passengers and travel industry furious after changes to travel green list | Business News
People hoping for an overseas trip this summer – and those hoping to sell them that break – are furious after the UK government announced changes to the list of approved destinations.
Portugal, which had been the only viable popular destination on the green list, will be moved to the amber list.
This will mean people returning from there will need to isolate at home for 10 days under coronavirus restrictions and take two PCR tests.
Other popular destinations such as Spain, Greece, Italy and France remain on the amber list.
Sri Lanka and Egypt are among seven countries moving to the red list, meaning returnees must quarantine at a government-approved hotel for 11 days at their own expense.
British travellers already in Portugal face a rush to return to the UK before the new rules begin in the early hours of Tuesday 8 June.
One man told Reuters news agency: “You have to have a system where either it’s open or it’s closed.
“There are families bringing out kids and people have booked holidays for a long time.
“If it’s closed, close it. But you know the stress involved for people now…”
Another said: “The constant changing of goalposts – that’s the frustrating side of thing.
“If you’re going to open up travel, you need to commit yourself to doing it, rather than doing a knee-jerk reaction allowing it one month and then changing it a few weeks later.”
Airlines and travel companies also reacted angrily to the changes, having spent much of the past 18 months trying to run their businesses under the cloud of constantly-changing government rules.
A British Airways spokesperson said the news was “incredibly disappointing and confusing”, adding: “The UK has reached a critical point and urgently needs travel with low-risk countries, like the US, to re-start the economy, support devastated industries and reunite loved ones.
“With high levels of vaccinations in the UK being matched by other countries, we should see the UK government adding destinations to ‘green’ as soon as possible – not turning its back on a traffic light model which we were led to believe was based firmly on scientific data.”
EasyJet’s chief executive Johan Lundgren said the decision was a “huge blow” and that it “simply isn’t justified by the science”.
“When this framework was put together, consumers were promised a waiting list to allow them to plan. Yet the government has torn up its own rule book and ignored the science, throwing peoples’ plans into chaos, with virtually no notice or alternative options for travel from the UK. This decision essentially cuts the UK off from the rest of the world.
“While our European fleet is gearing up for summer as European governments open up travel for their citizens, the UK government is making it impossible for airlines to plan while consumers are left grounded in UK.”
Jet2 said it had delayed the restart of flights and holidays from 24 June to 1 July after the government’s announcement.
Customers booked to go to amber list destinations would be allowed to amend bookings for free if they were due to travel between 1 and 21 July. Flights to red list country Turkey will resume on 22 July, with customers booked before then being offered a full refund.
Chief executive Steve Heapy said: “We know how disappointed our customers and independent travel agency partners will be following today’s announcement, and we share their concerns and frustrations.
“We are now calling for complete openness and transparency when it comes to the data, so that customers and the industry can really understand what is driving these decisions.”
“We agree that public health must be the number one priority. However, despite all the evidence and data showing that travel can restart safely and at scale, the UK continues to remain largely grounded whilst the rest of Europe opens up.”
A spokesperson for Ryanair said: “There is no justification for this decision, which has not been based on data or scientific fact.
“Vaccination rates in Portugal are at 40% and with over 75% of the UK adult population now vaccinated, it is perfectly safe for families to travel to the beaches of the Algarve this June, July and August.”
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: “They are basically putting at risk tens of thousands of jobs across aviation and the travel sector, and not showing any signs of helping the sector to recover.
“They seem to want to continue to create an atmosphere of fear among travellers, which is totally at odds with other countries.”
Andrew Flintham, managing director for TUI UK, said the announcement was “another step back for our industry” and that the moving of Portugal to the amber list would do “untold damage to customer confidence”.
He added: “Unlike other European countries and despite multiple requests, the government has refused to be transparent about the data requirements for green, amber and red destinations.
“We must see the methodology so we can help our customers and plan our operations accordingly.
“There are destinations around the world with little or no COVID-19 cases and good vaccination rates, so we need to understand why these remain on the amber list.”
The bosses of the UK’s main airports Heathrow and Gatwick were equally as frustrated.
Stewart Wingate, Gatwick’s chief executive, said: “It is bitterly disappointing news for our impacted passengers and airlines that Portugal is to be added to the ‘amber’ list from next week while no further destinations are being opened up for ‘green’ travel.
“While it is in all of our interests to ensure that we only take forward steps out of the pandemic, we hope that the rest of Europe follows the UK’s speed of public vaccination so that safe and easy travel to and from the UK becomes a reality quickly, particularly as travel between mainland European countries is opening up already.”
Heathrow’s chief executive John Holland-Kaye said the move would “all but guarantee another lost summer for the travel sector”.
He added: “If the government is serious about protecting UK jobs and supporting businesses across the country, rapid action is needed to reopen flights to key trading partners, remove testing for vaccinated passengers from ‘green’ countries, and slash the cost and complexity of testing, as other G7 countries are doing.”
Travel-related stock responded as expected to the announcement:
• IAG (owner of British Airways, Aer Lingus and others) closed down 5.3%
• Ryanair closed down 4.4%
• EasyJet closed down 5%
• Wizz Air closed down 3.8%
• Travel company TUI closed down 4.5%
• Intercontinental Hotels Group closed down 1.2%
• And Whitbread (owner of Premier Inn) closed down 1.4%