EasyJet chief Johan Lundgren has called on the government to commit to giving travellers sufficient notice of any changes in a destination’s grading under a proposed new traffic light system to govern the resumption of international travel.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast following prime minister Boris Johnson’s Easter Monday address (5 April) on the progress of the Global Travel Taskforce, Lundgren said it was vital government was transparent when it came to any such decisions.
"I think the government is looking to learn from what happened last year to make sure there can be an early signal if the destination is, for instance, in green and heading towards amber that it won’t come overnight [and] that there will be data available to allow customers to adapt," said Lundgren.
Challenged on what the airline would do in any such eventuality, Lundgren said easyJet – and the rest of the aviation sector – had never offered more generous terms when it came to booking flexibility and cancellation policies.
"Even if a flight operates but you can’t travel because of restrictions, we will give you a 100% cash refund," he said. "I think the whole industry has adapted to have generous policies when it comes to this."
Despite the guidance following Johnson’s announcement stating it was too early for people to be booking overseas summer holidays, Lundgren said the tone and content of the prime minister’s address was primarily positive.
"It was good news to the extent that it clearly supported the roadmap that was laid out in February, which aims to reopen international travel by 17 May," he said.
"Of course, it was also lacking in detail, particularly around the traffic light system and where countries and destinations will be placed in the different categories of green, amber and red. We know these are things the government is working through, and we are working with them constructively to do so."
Lundgren added he felt the traffic light system was the right one as it allowed the government to weigh up the individual circumstances with regards to Covid-19 in each destination.
He did, however, question the current lack of clarity on the criteria for the categories, and destinations’ movement between them, and what this would mean for the government’s testing demands.
"In order for a destination to qualify for that category [green], there needs to be acceptable levels of rates of vaccination in the population, there needs to be controlled levels of infection, and low prevalence of variants of concern," said Lundgren.
"Clearly, if you have ticked those boxes, then green is green. There shouldn’t be any more complexities to travel to and from those destinations."
Lundgren, though, said a two-test system – even for green destinations – risked pricing travellers out of travel, stressing a typical PCR test for Covid-19 would cost more than the average price of an easyJet fare.
"You wouldn’t open up international travel for everyone, you would open up international travel for people who can afford it," said Lundgren. "I don’t think that is fair or right, and I don’t think it is necessarily established from a medical and scientific point of view.
"If they choose to go down that route, to have the testing in place, it should be the lateral flow testing which is much cheaper, more accessible and is being used to open up the domestic sector."