EasyJet boss Johan Lundgren has warned the UK “risks” losing its status as one of the world’s leading nations for travel and tourism, due to government policies for reopening international travel.
Lundgren, chief executive of the Luton-based airline, told TTG editor Sophie Griffiths there was a danger current UK government policy “could be inflicting permanent damage to the whole of this industry”.
“The UK is a place where people travel from all over the world to come and look at the processes and procedures,” said Lundgren, during the TTG Agenda 2021: Surviving the Summer event for TTG+ subscribers.
“I came to the UK in 2009 because I thought the UK is the place to get to the heart of the industry and learn the most.
“But that risks not being the case going forward. They could be inflicting permanent damage to the sector and the whole of this industry."
Lundgren emphasised how EU countries have been reopening travel more quickly than the UK, despite the UK’s successful vaccination programme and easyJet was adding more flights within continental Europe.
“That’s so unfair – British people are topping the list of vaccination but they don’t get the advantage of the vaccination,” he added.
“I don’t think the public has really caught up to the fact that the UK has isolated itself.”
Lundgren called for more countries, such as Greek islands with low Covid infection rates, to be added to the green list, as well as more “transparency” in how the government was making decision on the traffic light lists.
While Lundgren insisted “underlying demand is massive” for international travel from the UK, he added consumer confidence “has been deteriorating” about the ability to travel this year due to government policies, such as the green watchlist.
“That [green] watchlist is adding to this extra uncertainty,” he said. “The biggest thing that affects people from not booking is quarantine.”
Lundgren also called for a reduction in the number of PCR tests people returning to the UK are currently required to take - even from countries on the green list.
“We need to get rid of PCR tests where it doesn’t need to happen,” he said. “They should not be the default testing mechanism. They are unnecessary to do in many of the low-risk countries. The costs makes travelling out of reach for many families.”
Lundgren confirmed easyJet has joined the legal action, launched by Manchester Airports Group (MAG), challenging the government over a “lack of transparency” in the way the traffic light system is being operated.
More positively, he predicted that the “bounce back is going to be huge” in travel, although he added it was “not going to be straightforward or linear”.