Stansted Airport owner's boss tells Boris Johnson to 'get Britain flying again'
The boss of the group that owns Stansted Airport has joined a travel and tourism plea to get Britain flying again.
Industry bosses have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling on him to clarify the Government's position.
They support the current traffic light system which puts destinations in three categories – green, amber and red – according to risk but argue the success of the UK's vaccine roll-out and the effectiveness of vaccines in protecting against all known Covid-19 variants support an expansion of the green list to low-risk countries now.
They are warning that the UK is already falling behind the rest of the world and risks throwing away its 'vaccine dividend', with long-term consequences for 'Global Britain', and say the best way to support this crucial industry is to enable safe travel to resume at scale.
Charlie Cornish, chief executive of Manchester Airports Group (MAG), which operates Stansted, Manchester and East Midlands airports, said: "The Government is holding back international travel despite clear evidence that more countries should be on the green list.
"The UK's traffic light system ignores the benefits of our world-leading vaccination programme, which was meant to give Britain a head start and let people visit family and go on holiday this summer. Instead, the Government is actively telling people not to travel to amber list countries despite creating a system that makes it safe for them to do so.
"At the same time, we are requiring millions of people with immunity from Covid-19 to pay for PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests to gather data on variants that other governments reliably collect already.
"With so much at stake, the Government must work transparently and collaboratively with industry to create a simple, fair and sustainable system that will truly get Britain flying again."
He is backed by the airlines and tour operators using Stansted.
Andrew Flintham, managing director of TUI UK and Ireland, said: "We've worked closely with the Government on the safe reopening of travel and it's clear that the data supports expanding the green list.
"Getting away on a much-needed holiday to key destinations like Spain, Greece, some Caribbean islands and the US should now be possible because of the excellent vaccination programme in the UK, increased vaccinations in these destinations, low rates of the virus and no evidence of variants of concern.
"We're already seeing other European markets open up to travel and welcome back customers, so now is the time for the UK to do the same. We're a nation of travellers, so it's time to stop limiting our ability to travel where it's safe to do so."
Steve Heapy, chief executive of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, said: "The UK Government has repeatedly said it will be led by the data, in which case many popular holiday destinations can be added onto the green list now.
"Infection and vaccination rates across many of our destinations are improving rapidly, and if you apply what the Government has said, there is no reason why they cannot be safely opened to UK holidaymakers.
"There is enormous demand for much-needed holidays to the sunshine, and customers want to travel to their favourite destinations like the Balearics, not just to Portugal or a remote island in the South Atlantic.
"Customers need time to plan their holidays, so we eagerly look forward to positive news in the coming days about where we can fly to."
Johan Lundgren, chief executive of easyJet, added: "We've always said that vaccination is the key to unlocking travel and so now is the time for the Government to bank the gains from the huge success of the vaccination programme and expand the green list.
"The science shows that travel can safely reopen to much of Europe now and most European governments have opened up travel for their citizens, with far fewer restrictions and exemptions for fully vaccinated travellers. This means British consumers are not only being left behind but could end up unfairly picking up a bigger bill for their trip.
"And let's not forget the wider and longer-term consequences of not opening up – for the country's connectivity, the aviation industry and UK economy as a whole.
"Customers want to travel this summer – they value their holidays, want to reunite with loved ones after many months of separation and develop their businesses, so I urge the Government to increase the green list and let the UK take off once again."
The industry's demands are:
- Recognise that many countries are low-risk for travel and add them to the green list and reintroduce the Islands Policy;
- Recognition of vaccination status so that vaccinated passengers do not need to take a test or self-isolate if travelling from green or amber countries;
- Move to green being green and remove current restrictions;
- Drive down the cost of testing – this could be done by removing the levying of VAT on PCR tests and reducing the cost of NHS PCR tests to better stimulate the market;
- Remove the guidance that people should not travel to amber countries.
The green list countries currently are Australia, Brunei, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Iceland, Israel, New Zealand, Portugal including the Azores and Madeira, Singapore, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha.