Travel industry bosses have criticised the government’s plan for overseas summer holidays for being “overly cautious”, warning it will delay the recovery of the sector.
A traffic light system for international travel will come into force in England on 17 May, the first easing of tight restrictions on foreign travel in several months.
Twelve destinations are included on England’s “green list”, which allows people to travel abroad without quarantining when they arrive home. Those approved include Portugal, Israel and Gibraltar.
But many in the travel industry called for the list to be expanded.
Airlines UK, an industry body representing UK carriers, said the green list was a “missed opportunity” and urged the government to make “major additions” to the list at the next review point in three weeks’ time.
“With so few countries making it on to the green list, [this] represents a reopening of air travel in name only,” Airlines UK’s chief executive, Tim Alderslade, said. “By contrast, the EU has said vaccinated people will be able to travel without restrictions, which leaves the UK at risk of falling behind and not opening up international travel to key markets across Europe as well as the United States.”
The chief executive of easyJet Holidays, Garry Wilson, said it was “very disappointing” that so few countries had been included on the green list. Wilson said he believed destinations including the Greek Islands, the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands met the criteria for inclusion on the green list and should be added.
“We did think it was very cautious and it is really not aligning with the approach the government has taken to open up domestic travel and we don’t think it is backed up by the science or the data,” Wilson told BBC Breakfast on Saturday. “So we’re really expecting to see very soon a lot of the other major European holiday destinations opening up.”
Virgin Atlantic said the green list was “overly cautious” and called for the US, its largest trading partner, to be added, saying that a “transatlantic travel corridor is vital to deliver a much-needed boost to economic recovery”.
“There is no reason for the US to be absent from the green list,” a spokesperson for the airline said. “This overly cautious approach fails to reap the benefits of the UK’s successful vaccination programme.”
Sector leaders also urged the government to provide details on when other holiday destinations might be added to the list.
“We call on government to provide transparency on decision-making and clarity on when we can expect other European countries to join the green list so that consumers and airlines alike can plan for this summer,” said easyJet’s chief executive, Johan Lundgren.
But public health expert Prof Linda Bauld said she supported a more cautious approach to opening up international travel.
“We’ve had more cases of Covid-19 last week globally than we’ve had at any point of the pandemic,” Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, told Times Radio on Saturday morning.
“I know people are disappointed that they can’t go to France or Spain, but at the moment if I could point to one area that I’d be most anxious about it would be variants and importation of infection. I think that’s the territory we have to be most cautious and move most slowly.”