Airlines, ferry firms and holiday companies have welcomed the relaxation of quarantine rules for vaccinated British passengers arriving in the the UK from “amber list” countries. But chief executives in the aviation industry called for an end to expensive PCR tests for people who have been immunised.
The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, opened the way for travel to resume at scale to and from countries regarded as medium risk – including France, Italy, Greece and the US – from 19 July.
Terms in many schools in England and Wales end around the same date, though schools in Scotland and Northern Ireland have already broken up for the summer.
The hope in the travel industry is that something of the summer can be rescued – although many families have already committed to domestic trips.
“This is the news we have been waiting for all year,” said Brittany Ferries chief executive, Christophe Mathieu.
“Finally, the storm clouds are lifting and the sun is beginning to shine. We expect an avalanche of demand in the weeks ahead and my message to our customers is clear: Brittany Ferries is ready, and we can’t wait to serve you all.”
Sean Doyle, chief executive and chairman of British Airways, 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.”
Johan Lundgren, chief executive of easyJet, said: “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.
“We look forward to playing our part in getting the country flying again.”
Stewart Wingate, chief executive of Gatwick – formerly the busiest single-runway airport in the world – was more muted. He 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.
“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.”
Robert Sinclair, chief executive of London City Airport, said: “The quarantine-free travel policy should be extended to non-British arrivals as soon as possible, and the government should also take further steps to make the testing regime simpler and more affordable.”
Julia Lo Bue Said, chief executive of the Advantage Travel Partnership, has warned that unless leading destinations including Spain, Greece, Italy, France, Portugal and the US are added to the “green list” next week it will be “almost impossible to trade out of the pandemic”.
The boss of the UK’s biggest alliance of independent travel agents said restrictions must be further eased “in order to allow them to trade through to recovery”.
One chief executive – Danny Callaghan of the Latin American Travel Association – berated the government’s remaining travel restrictions.
He said: “What exactly is the risk that we are protecting the UK from, when most of the world has lower case rates than us?
“We have the ridiculous situation where Brits are actually less likely to catch Covid abroad than they are if they holiday in the UK, yet the government seems intent on promoting domestic tourism over international, effectively driving up Covid rates.”
Almost all Latin American countries are on the UK’s high-risk “red list”.
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