Manchester Airports Group (MAG) has lost its legal challenge against how the government’s traffic light scheme is devised, with judges describing explanations as "unrealistic burdens".
MAG, backed by Ryanair, Tui, easyJet, Virgin Atlantic and publisher Clive Jacobs, sought a High Court verdict on the way changes to the system were made, often at short notice.
Their claims were thrown out, but MAG was given permission to seek a further judicial review.
Judges ruled transport secretary Grant Shapps had not acted unlawfully and had conducted a review “which meets the requirements” of the government’s International Travel Regulations.
They also threw out calls for Shapps to publish reasons for decisions announced on the 3 June 2021.
These included “methodology relied on to reach decisions that Portugal should be removed from the green list, that the other countries including Sri Lanka and Egypt should go to the red list, and that all countries on the amber list pursuant to the International Travel Regulations should remain on that list”.
MAG’s lawyers argued an “obligation of transparency” existed under common law. However, judges said that if a country remained on the amber list, “the reason is the precautionary approach plus the lack of sufficient evidence to the contrary. In context, that is sufficient reason”.
They added: “The Secretary of State only needs to go further in cases where, relying on specific evidence, he decides that a country should move to or away from the amber list, default position.
“The linked reason is that any further obligation would impose unrealistic burdens on the secretary of state in the context of a review which…must be undertaken at least every 28 days.”
MAG said: “British businesses and consumers deserve to understand how the government takes decisions on the traffic light system so that they can book their travel with confidence whether for business, visiting friends and family or simply taking a holiday.
“The way decisions have been taken to date has not been transparent and has created huge confusion and uncertainty for the British public. In a recent poll 80% of UK consumers agreed.”
The group added: “The most recent changes including to the status of travellers from France which overnight created yet another category of “amber+” were shambolic and made it even harder for consumers and businesses to plan. The government should do the right thing by consumers and provide clarity on any changes it makes to the system.
“If the government is truly following the data then it must make significant changes to the ‘green’ list including adding the US and major EU countries. There is also no reason why travellers from the US and EU should not be exempt from quarantine and testing as soon as possible. The UK has already fallen behind the EU’s reopening and our overly cautious approach to international travel will further impact our economic recovery.”