“Green should mean green.” That was the sentiment of easyJet chief Johan Lundgren speaking following the airline’s financial update this morning.
Under the current plans everyone returning to or visiting the UK will be required to take at least one coronavirus test prior to departure and after they arrive.
“While easyJet has supported the development of a framework for travel, green should mean green,” Lundgren said.
“We continue to engage with the UK government. In particular we want to ensure that the two-test system doesn’t make flying too costly as this would risk reversing the clock and could put flying out of reach for some.
“It is more important than ever that the government makes good on its pledge to drive down the cost of testing to make it affordable.
“We will continue to engage with all governments to focus on the evidence and demonstrate that unrestricted travel between low-risk countries is safe and possible this summer.”
Lundgren said as the rest of British society opens up it “makes no sense” to treat travel differently in terms of the testing regime used, particularly to low-risk countries.
“When you’re flying to and from low-risk countries, that are ‘green’, we don’t believe they should need any testing at all,” he continued. “Or they should have the equivalent to what is needed for the UK economy opening up.
“Travel shouldn’t be treated any differently. But of course it’s a good first step that the PCR test cost has come down – but I think there’s much more work to be done in that area.”
He added: “We still lack the scientific rationale why green countries should require testing at all. But if the PCR and lateral flow tests will need to be in place for green countries, then I expect many countries in the category. But that is in the hands of the government.”
Asked whether he thought the UK’s testing requirements would be prohibitive, Lundgren said: “It depends on the cost. We’ve said that the cost of the PCR tests have been too high. And this has been a significant risk to putting travel out of reach for some people.
“And we’ve seen on the news that some suppliers have reduced costs. But I still think £60 is a significant burden to the costs of a family.
“So we are looking for the costs to continue to come down and expect the government to continue its work to make that happen.”
Lundgren suggested that if lateral flow tests were adopted in place of PCRs, anyone who tested positive for the former could go on to have the latter, to check for variants.
He said some initial studies suggested a test nearer £30 would be more appealing to consumers.
“We’re not there yet. But the government needs to continue to do what it can to reduce the cost of these tests if it’s going to continue to insist on them.”
Lundgren added his belief that “almost all major European countries” could be placed into the government’s green traffic light category when international travel resumes from May.