The Covid vaccine programme means it is time for a ‘step change’ to international travel rules, the airline sector has told the government.
In its submission to the Global Travel Taskforce, Airlines UK and the Airport Operators Association said the point had been reached where restrictions could be relaxed:
“As we approach universal adult vaccine coverage in the UK, and the imminent ending of the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme, it is time now for a step change in approach by government to international travel.
“Since July, we have seen football stadiums packed to full capacity and nightclubs reopening with no restrictions. In contrast, the approach to international travel remains incredibly cautious, complex and costly.”
The two bodies argue fully vaccinated travellers and anyone travelling from low-risk countries should be able to travel without restrictions or testing, “just like domestic UK travel”.
They also said Variants of Concern could be kept at bay through a red list, “applicable only to the highest-risk countries”.
The letter said: “Today we are applying significantly more restrictive and costly measures to travel from locations with lower levels of Covid-19 than the UK.
“Families and business travellers, even fully vaccinated, remain at the mercy of a dysfunctional private testing regime, subject to investigation by the CMA. Data shows that the cost of testing of around £100 for vaccinated people can be as high as five times the cost of a return flight. The effect on demand of this is clearly significant.”
Figures from Eurocontrol taken on 1 September and compared with the same day in 2019 show UK aviation the hardest hit of 10 European countries, with the number of flights down 48%. Greece was down only 7%, France 29% and Germany, the next hardest hit to the UK, was -39%.
Airlines UK and the AOA said: “While the rest of the economy has been able to reopen without restrictions, UK aviation continues to operate with complex and burdensome restrictions, such as the sky-high cost of testing. As a result, aviation is unique in having had a worse summer this year than last.
"Meanwhile, our European competitors have taken off and are seeing traffic levels at more than 70% of 2019 figures.”