The aviation industry has hit out at the “rollercoaster ride” of changes to the government’s green list and called again for more transparency into how decisions are made.
Airlines and aviation bodies believe the UK is “being left behind” in reopening international travel compared with other parts of the world, including the EU, and is not taking advantage of the country’s high vaccination rates.
The criticism came after the latest review of the traffic light system on Wednesday (14 July) saw Spain’s Balearic islands demoted from green to amber due to rising Covid-19 cases, while Bulgaria moved up to the green list and Croatia to the green watchlist.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, which represents UK-based carriers, said the current system was “not working as it was designed to”.
“While the vaccination programme is permitting a full reopening of the domestic economy, international travel between safe countries - with low infections and high vaccination rates - is still being portrayed as though it is a serious danger to public health,” added Alderslade.
“Moving countries between the tiers like this is shattering consumer trust during an already unpredictable booking season. It is time the government implemented a consistent and transparent travel policy, rather than the current rollercoaster ride of changes, which is condemning international travel to the status of second-class citizen."
Shai Weiss, chief executive at Virgin Atlantic, said the UK’s “overly cautious approach” to international travel would threaten the economic recovery from the pandemic and put 500,000 jobs at risk.
“The continued movement of countries between tiers and the lack of transparency around UK government’s decision making is damaging consumer confidence,” added Weiss.
“The UK’s successful vaccination programme is enabling a full reopening of the domestic economy while international travel is left virtually closed, leading to the UK falling further behind the EU.”
Weiss called for the government to add more countries with high vaccination rates to the green list including the US and EU destinations.
Steve Heapy, chief executive of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, said the latest update “changes nothing whatsoever” for holidaymakers who have been fully vaccinated against Covid.
“As restrictions across the UK continue to be eased and ‘VIPs’ travel carte-blanche, it is still unfair that hardworking customers and families continue to be judged by a different and stricter set of rules when it comes to taking their well-deserved holidays,” added Heapy.
“It is frustrating that decisions continue to be made about international travel while the criteria for these decisions are withheld from us. Once again, we call on governments to be transparent, both with the data and their parameters for making decisions.”
While Brian Strutton, acting general secretary for pilots’ union Balpa, said the sector “can’t survive on scraps” created by such a limited reopening of international travel this summer.
“This latest announcement also highlights the importance of clarity over the traffic light system criteria,” he added.
“Balpa is calling once again for the data to be published and for transparency on how the list is compiled so that the travel industry can plan and passengers can feel confident to book."