Pilots union Balpa has called for an immediate end to the government’s "damaging" mixed messaging on international travel, while Travel Network Group chief Gary Lewis has said the confusion risked hindering the travel sector’s fledgling recovery.
General secretary Brian Strutton on Wednesday (19 May) said that while the public was "understandably confused" by the new traffic light system, the least they could expect from government ministers was for them to understand it.
It comes after 48 hours’ confusion over the government’s stance on travel to amber list destinations, which is not illegal – but has been robustly discouraged by health secretary Matt Hancock and prime minister Boris Johnson.
On Tuesday (18 May), health minister Lord Bethell told the House of Lords travel was “dangerous” and that people shouldn’t be considering getting away this year for any reason owing to the risk posed by new variants of Covid-19.
The government’s traffic light system sets out the testing and self-isolation rules by which arrivals must abide, with the decision to travel to a specific destination up to individual travellers after the blanket ban on non-essential travel was lifted on Monday (17 May).
"There’s no doubt that the public has been confused by the traffic light system for international travel, but we had hoped government ministers at the very least would understand it," said Strutton.
"They have finally confirmed this morning [Wednesday] that people can take personal responsibility for whether to travel to amber list countries.
"The aviation and travel sector has been decimated by the government’s confused policies and it must feel like slow torture for the British public desperate to have a summer break.
"At the next review in a week’s time, the government must either open more routes, including to the US, or compensate the aviation and travel sectors for killing their businesses.
"And they must finally end the damaging mixed messages."
Gary Lewis, chief executive of The Travel Network Group, added: “The travel industry and holidaymakers urgently need clarity on how people should interpret the traffic light system.
"Since the ban on international travel was lifted on Monday, five different MPs or ministers have given comments giving different accounts of how the guidance should be interpreted and in what situations leisure travel is acceptable.
"This lack of clarity and mixed messages is further damaging consumer confidence in travel and hindering the recovery of the outbound tourism sector.
"We support the government’s cautious approach to reopening travel but need a clear message on how the traffic light system should be applied to leisure travel and in what circumstances travel to each category is deemed acceptable."