Hopes of jetting off on a summer break for millions of Britons were given a boost today as airline bosses have said most of Europe and the US could be open to international travel in the coming months.
easyJet boss Johan Lundgren has said that he expects ‘most European countries’ to be included on the Government’s green list when international travel returns from May 17.
Meanwhile, British Airways boss Sean Doyle has said that continued successful vaccine rollout in the UK and the United States could allow for a transatlantic corridor to open.
Johan Lundgren, chief executive of easyJet, told reporters this morning: ‘I will struggle to see that there will be, unless something happens between now and then, that there would be many (European) countries who wouldn’t be in that green category.’
The Government has yet to say which countries will make its green list for low risk travel.
The chief executive of easyJet Johan Lundgren (pictured) said that by the time travel restarts in Britain on May 17, most European countries should be on the UK’s green list for travel
EasyJet’s Lundgren said the main question customers were asking was which countries would be on the green list and urged the government to come forward with details as soon as possible.
He added: ‘We would expect that, if the Government continues with the approach on the testing regime that they have said, I would expect almost all major European countries, that by the time it comes to travel reopening, that most countries in Europe should be in that category.’
He added: ‘If the PCR test and the lateral flow test will need to be in place for ‘green’ countries, I couldn’t see that there would be many countries in Europe that wouldn’t be in the ‘green’ category.
‘It’s important the Government comes out with this list as soon as possible because this is the main question for most of our customers right now.
‘They want to know if the favourite destination for them to go on their holiday or to visit friends and family across Europe is that country in the ‘green’ category.
‘And it will be a big difference, of course, if you’re in the ‘green’ category, versus if you’re in ‘amber’ or ‘red’.’
Asked if he expects destinations such as France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Cyprus and Turkey to be on the Government ‘green list’, easyJet boss Johan Lundgren replied: ‘Yes, by the time we open up for travel on May 17 and if the Government continues to have the plan in place on the two-test system.
‘I wouldn’t see reason why you wouldn’t have the majority of the countries of Europe in there.
‘We really believe that, if you’re in the ‘green’ category, there should not be any need of any testing at all because it would be considered low-risk.’
Meanwhile, British Airways boss Sean Doyle has said swift vaccine rollouts in the UK and the United States should enable transatlantic routes to open.
‘There’s an immediate opportunity to open up the U.S.,’ Doyle said during CAPA Live, an online industry event.
With the two countries ‘more or less mirroring each other’ on vaccination, Doyle said, ‘that should lead to the UK and the U.S. being able to lead the way in terms of opening up.’
British Airways boss Sean Doyle has said swift vaccine rollouts in the UK and the United States should enable transatlantic routes to open once international travel resumes this summer
Transatlantic re-opening would play to the network strengths of British Airways and parent group IAG, he added. ‘The breadth and depth of the network we have provided there historically has been a competitive advantage for us.’
Last month, experts said London and Washington are discussing piloting a bilateral safe travel scheme after May to allow for travel between the two countries.
CEO of The PC Agency Paul Charles said the plans are ‘proceeding positively’ and said there were others in place for ‘like-minded countries’ which are ahead in dishing out Covid jabs.
Government sources also indicated talks are taking place with the US – but nothing is confirmed and the timescales are unclear.
But Mr Charles told MailOnline: ‘The UK/US governments are in negotiations at the moment which are proceeding positively, about a possible pilot bilateral corridor scheme to enable safe travel between the two countries after the end of May.
‘One of the (eight) Global Travel Taskforce workstreams is called ‘Engaging with other like-minded countries’ – these are countries such as the US which have advanced vaccine rollout programmes and are focused on reducing infection and variant rates.
easyJet boss Johan Lundren has urged the Government to come forward with details of its green list as soon as possible but Malta (pictured) is one that sources say could be included
‘Profiteering’ private firms add £1,000 to price of holiday for four as they charge up to £300 for single Covid test that other firms offer for £60
Private Covid-19 testing firms have been accused of profiteering by charging up to £300 for a single PCR test which cost just £20 to make while other companies charge as little as £60 for the same tests.
The most expensive companies on the official list of Government-approved firms sell coronavirus tests for around four times the price of the cheapest firms and five times if you want 24-hour weekend turnaround.
An investigation by the Daily Telegraph has found that this can be the difference between adding £1,000 to a family-of-four’s summer holiday overseas and a potentially more affordable charge of £240.
Every holidaymaker returning to Britain from May 17 will have to take a PCR test on or before the second day of arrival, even when travelling back from a so-called ‘green list country’. People coming back to the UK from ‘amber’ or ‘red list’ countries will have to take two tests, on days two and eight.
It follows plans by minsters to cut the cost of PCR tests and remove any private testing firms that were ‘profiteering’ from the official list, after the Government announced a huge expansion of twice-weekly testing.
Boris Johnson said the multi-billion pound move can help the return to normality by picking up asymptomatic cases and identifying local outbreaks faster.
But concerns were immediately raised as when used on that scale the tests could wrongly label tens of thousands of people a week as having Covid – forcing them to isolate and get more reliable PCR checks to show they are clear.
‘The Biden Administration has also been consulting in the US about opening up borders in advance of American Independence Day in July.’
Britons will be allowed to fly to ‘green’ countries with low Covid rates and strong vaccine rollouts, as long as they take tests before flying out and returning home.
One Whitehall source said Greece could make it on to the so-called ‘green list’ next month despite a recent rise in cases, while the USA, Gibraltar, Malta and much of the Caribbean are tipped for green status.
Those returning from these countries where the virus is under control will not have to quarantine on return.
They will have to take only one test after flying home, rather than the current two.
And ministers are said to be considering giving travellers free Covid tests to take abroad to save the hassle and cost of arranging one before flying home.
But under the ‘traffic light’ system, it is expected the vast majority of returning holidaymakers will be required to take PCR tests – which cost around £120 – a move that risks pricing families out of a summer break.
It would cost the average family of four an extra £600 on top of flights and accommodation.
Airline bosses including easyJet’s Johan Lundgren have warned the current testing requirements could make travel prohibitively expensive, with Covid tests costing more than the flight itself in some cases.
They have argued that families would be reluctant to book if they were forced to find an extra £600 to pay for the tests on top of the cost of the holiday.
The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) has warned that the cost of testing could be a ‘major barrier’ to going abroad this summer.
Luke Petherbridge, Abta’s director of public affairs, told Sky News that the travel industry feels ‘an overriding sense of frustration’ with the ‘lack of detail’ in the Global Travel Taskforce’s recent report on how international travel could safely return.
He said the sector needs to know the criteria by which countries are going to be assessed to determine their risk levels.
Mr Petherbridge said: ‘Testing is going to be a major barrier to travel this summer – we need the Government to engage with the industry on how we can bring down the cost of testing.’
Commenting on the Global Travel Taskforce’s recommended approach to potentially low-risk countries, he said: ‘We cannot understand why countries in the green category should require a PCR test.
‘We believe a double lateral flow test approach would be a more proportionate approach to follow in that category.’
Brian Strutton, general secretary of pilots’ union Balpa, told Sky News the Government should be subsidising the PCR tests to make the price reasonable.
He also urged the Government to ‘kick-start’ international travel by offering the tests free to key workers as ‘they deserve a holiday’.
Meanwhile, British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle told CAPA Live, an online industry event, that his airline will make PCR tests available to customers for just £60.
This echoes the announcement by a major Covid testing firm that they were going to halve the price of their tests.
Randox said yesterday that it will charge holidaymakers jetting back to Britain £60 for the gold standard tests, rather than the usual £120 they would cost.
The cut-price tests will be available for customers of partnering airlines, which have not yet been revealed but Mr Doyle’s comments this morning suggest British Airways could be among them.
It comes as easyJet has said it is getting ready to ‘ramp up’ services for the summer holiday season by offering more flights from late May after restrictions ease.
The carrier said it expects to fly up to 20 per cent of 2019 capacity levels between April and June, with most countries planning to resume flying at scale in May.
EasyJet flew just 14 per cent of its 2019 flight programme between October and the end of March.
The group confirmed it will slump to a steep first-half loss, of between £690 million and £730 million for the six months to March 31, but said this is slightly better than expected thanks largely to stringent cost-cutting.
It burned through around £470 million of cash during its second quarter to the end of December, which was lower than feared as it slashed costs by nearly 60 per cent to about £854 million.
Chief executive Johan Lundgren said: ‘We continue to closely monitor the situation across Europe and, with vaccination programmes accelerating, most countries are planning to resume flying at scale in May.
‘We have the operational flexibility to rapidly increase flying and add destinations to match demand.
‘EasyJet is ready to resume flying, prepared for the ramp-up and looking forward to being able to reunite people with their families or take them on leisure and business flights once again.’
But he reiterated calls for the Government to cut the price of Covid-19 tests for air passengers, having previously said they sometimes cost more than easyJet’s tickets.
He said: ‘EasyJet was founded to make travel accessible for all and so we continue to engage with Government to ensure that the cost of the required testing is driven down so that it doesn’t risk turning back the clock and make travel too costly for some.’
Britons are set to be allowed to travel abroad for foreign holidays from May 17 under the Government’s road map to easing coronavirus restrictions.
But there are fears over a third wave across Europe and with vaccination programmes progressing more slowly in other countries globally.
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