Ryanair and bosses behind three major English airports are today preparing to take the Government to court over its travel traffic light system, which they say is bringing the industry to its knees.
The budget airline is set to be joined by Manchester Airports Group (MAG) – the operator of Manchester, East Midlands and Stansted airports – in launching a High Court challenge later today.
The legal bid will seek to force the Government to reveal how it decides which countries are placed on the green, amber and red travel lists.
It comes as outspoken Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary today blasted ministers as ‘incompetent’ in a scathing attack on the Government’s transport policy.
‘I have no faith in (Boris) Johnson’s government on any of these issues, having completely mismanaged the original lockdowns last year and the reopening now.’
Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary (pictured) today blasted Government ministers as ‘incompetent’ in a scathing attack on its transport policy
The budget airline is set to be joined by Manchester Airports Group (MAG) – the operator of Manchester, East Midlands and Stansted airports – in launching a High Court challenge later today. Pictured: Holidaymakers queue up at a Ryanair check in desk at Faro airport
Top European resorts including Spain and Turkey are ‘unlikely to be added to the green list before August’
Top European resorts are unlikely to be added to the green list ‘before August’, foreign tourism chiefs have reportedly been told, leaving millions of Britons facing another summer without a holiday abroad.
UK ambassadors are said to have warned foreign tourism bosses that the return of British travellers to traditional holiday hot-spots such as Spain and Turkey will be pushed back until later this summer.
It comes as holiday firm TUI announced yesterday that it was axing more of its trips to top European holiday destinations up until July.
And one travel expert warned that July was now being regarded as a ‘white-wash’ for industry bosses.
Despite this, some firms are reporting a spike in demand for flights to Gibraltar, Israel and Iceland – which are all currently on the UK’s green list.
The latest travel set-back will be a particular blow to traditional holiday destinations – including the likes of Portugal, Greece France – which are currently on the UK’s amber list.
Toni Mayor, head of the Hosbec association of Valencia region hoteliers, said he did not expect to see the bulk of UK tourism take off until August, according to the Telegraph.
His comments come after a meeting with Hugh Elliott, who has been the UK’s Ambassador to Spain and non-resident Ambassador to Andorra since 2019.
Meanwhile, tourism chiefs in Turkey are also understood to have received a similar message, after a meeting with UK Foreign Office officials, the Telegraph adds.
The news has sparked concern within the industry. Some now fear July – one of the busiest and most profitable months of the summer holiday season – will now be a blow-out for the travel industy.
Travel expert Paul Charles, CEO of the PC Agency, said travel firms have already written off July as a return for summer holidays.
‘July is a white-wash,’ he told MailOnline.
‘Most firms are now looking beyond that, so it will be August that they will be looking at for the restart.’
Mr Charles said the decision to push back green-listing countries such as Greece, Spain and Portugal at one of the busiest points of the summer holiday season could result in ‘billions of pounds in losses’ for the industry.
He said: ‘The travel industry does around half of its business in summer.
‘So I would say the losses will run into the billions, when you take into account refunds and loss of sales. You’ve also got the cost of moving the planes to be parked and the cost of staff and running the business itself.’
Mr Charles called on the Government to set a firm date for the full return of international travel.
‘They have set July 19 as the date for ending of domestic restrictions, the Government needs to set a date, perhaps July 31, when travel will be restored.
‘It needs to give confidence in the sector or there will be more companies that go under and job losses.’
Meanwhile, figures from Skyscanner, and reported in the Times, show how holidaymakers are rushing to book flights to holiday destinations on the green list.
Flights to Gibraltar have seen a 115 per cent increase in seats sold at the beginning of July, compared to the previous week.
EasyJet, Wizz Air, British Airways and Eastern Airways have all reportedly put on extra flights to Gibraltar to meet the demand.
There has also been a 40 per cent increase in demand for flights to Iceland.
Both are currently on the UK’s travel green list, meaning tourists can return from these countries without having to quarantine.
Those returning from amber list countries, such as Portugal, Spain, Greece and America, all face a 10-day period of self-isolation and two negative PCR-tests on arrival in the UK.
On the upcoming legal challenge, he added: ‘[We are] trying to force the Government to at least either a) be more transparent [over the traffic light system], b) publish what exactly the thresholds are at which international travel … will be allowed to restart.
‘Or c) get some injunctive relief against the Government generally on the back of vaccines that says the longer lockdown is restricting people’s freedom of movement.’
He later told Sky News: ‘It’s typical of Boris Johnson’s Government, just making this stuff up as they go along. There is no green list.
‘What we keep calling for in the travel industry is, now that we have 80% of the adult population of Britain vaccinated, why can’t those people go on holidays to Portugal and Spain without restrictions? They’re already vaccinated.’
It comes as London-based World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) said the Government must scrap the system, which has ‘wreaked havoc’ among consumers and businesses, in order to save hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Meanwhile, officials will consider proposals that could allow Britons who have had both coronavirus vaccine doses to avoid having to quarantine when returning from countries on the amber list, according to reports in The Daily Telegraph.
A Government spokeswoman confirmed work had begun to ‘consider the role of vaccinations’ for inbound travel following the continued success of the jab’s rollout.
This could mean the return of holidays to popular summer hotspots such as Spain, Portugal, France and Italy, all currently on the UK’s amber list.
Demand for air travel collapsed in March last year when the UK went into lockdown in response to the crisis, with the Government now under pressure to restart international travel by the battered tourism industry.
Mr O’Leary’s blistering critique of the Government comes after he yesterday accused the Prime Minister of doing too little for the travel industry, as he questioned why the jabbed could not go on holiday abroad.
Mr O’Leary said: ‘UK citizens, almost 80 per cent of whom will be vaccinated by the end of June, continue to face Covid restrictions on travel to and from the
‘UK tourism and aviation needs a pragmatic travel policy, which permits vaccinated UK and EU citizens to travel between the UK and the EU without the need for quarantine or negative PCR tests.
‘This will at least allow the UK tourism industry to plan for what is left of the summer season and get hundreds of thousands of people back to work.
‘The UK’s Covid travel policy is a shambles. The Green List is non-existent because countries such as Malta and Portugal, with lower Covid case numbers than the UK and rapidly rising vaccination rates, remain on Amber.’
It came as the EU continued to make travel difficult for British tourists, after it widened its ‘white list’ to include the US – but not the UK – which allow non essential travel.
Last week Mr O’Leary first launched his criticism of the travel safety list and its traffic light-themed measures.
He told Sky News at the time: ‘This stop, go, stop approach to travel is bonkers.
‘Portugal has exactly the same Covid case rates and higher vaccination rates when it was taken off the UK’s green list last week than it had when it went on it.
‘Malta which has higher vaccination rates than the UK and only one third the Covid case rates can’t get from the amber list to the green list.
‘The whole thing is a shambles and it is typical of Boris Johnson’s Government just making this stuff up as they go along.
‘There is no green list. What we keep calling for in the travel industry is now that we have 80 per cent of the adult population in Britain vaccinated, why can’t those people go on holidays to Portugal, Spain without restrictions? They are already vaccinated.’
It came as the EU continued to make travel difficult for British tourists. The UK was not among eight countries added by the bloc to a list to where non-essential travel is safe.
The whitelist will now reportedly be expanded to include Albania, North Macedonia, Serbia, Lebanon, the United States, Taiwan, Macau and Hong Kong.
It joins Australia, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and China.
It is understood that the growing prevalence of the Delta variant of coronavirus was the reason for the UK being shunned.
Beachgoers crowd Santo Amaro beach near Lisbon on a hot and sunny afternoon in Portugal
The white list countries are places where people can enter into EU countries without quarantining and only have to provide proof of vaccination or a negative test.
The UK’s current travel green list
According to the Department for Transport, as of June 15, the current UK travel green list includes:
Israel and Jerusalem
South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands
St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
However, it will still be up to individual member states to decide whether to impose additional requirements, such as a negative test or mandatory quarantine period.
The decision is expected to be formally adopted by the end of the week, according to a Portuguese EU presidency spokesperson cited by German press agency DPA.
There has been widespread confusion over the traffic light system in the UK.
Ministers seem to be unable to agree on what the colour designations of each country means in reality.
Earlier this month Environment Secretary George Eustice sparked confusion about the ‘green list’.
He said: ‘My advice to people would be holiday at home, we’ve got some great places here.’
Asked whether people should be booking trips to ‘green list’ nations, Mr Eustice told Sky News yesterday: ‘Well, let me be clear, you shouldn’t be booking holidays to countries that are currently on either the amber list or the red list.
‘You can go to the admittedly relatively small number of countries on the green list.
‘Even there be aware that this isn’t a normal summer for holidays, we are reviewing that list every three weeks and so I would advise people to look for travel operators who can offer flexibility, would be able to offer rescheduling or repayments if something changes.
‘We would like to open up that green list to more countries but we have obviously got to do so cautiously.’
In a howl of protest, bosses tell of panic and job loss fears amid yet more chaos
Andrew Flintham – TUI
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.
John Holland-Kaye – Heathrow
Ministers spent last month hailing the restart of international travel, only to close it down three weeks later, all but guaranteeing another lost summer for the travel sector.
Everyone wants to protect public health, but the entire point of the Global Travel Taskforce was to establish a system to unlock low-risk travel safely.
Britain is the worst performing economy in the G7, and in the week that the Prime Minister hosts G7 leaders to launch his Government’s vision of Global Britain, he’s sending a message that the UK will remain isolated from the rest of the world and closed to most of its G7 partners.
Johan Lundgren – easyJet
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 people’s 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.
Brian Strutton – Balpa (Airline Pilots Association)
This decision is a total disaster for the already fragile travel industry and is likely to lead to further airline failures and many more job losses.
Any shred of public confidence is in tatters and the traffic light system seems stuck on red.
Tim Alderslade – Airlines UK
This is no way to treat passengers. The Government promised a green watchlist to avoid this very scenario of people being stranded overseas – where is it?
This decision just adds to the belief that ministers don’t actually want international travel this summer, and want to cut off the UK from the rest of the world despite the success of the vaccination programme.
If that is the case they should be open and tell us rather than leading us and our customers further down this painful merry dance, and put in place longer-term support measures for an industry now on its knees.
Paul Charles – The PC Agency
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. There are several countries which meet the criteria to be on the green list, so this is clearly a politically-charged decision rather than one based on data.
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