Pressure mounts in UK to lift travel restrictions



Legal action against UK government’s COVID-19 travel restrictions gathers momentum with the country’s largest tour operator TUI Group and a number of airlines joining a challenge led by Ryanair and Manchester Airports Group (MAG).

The legal offer – backed by easyJet, the owner of British Airways IAG International Airlines Group and Virgin Atlantic – is an attempt to get the government to be more transparent in how it determines which countries are on the green, amber and red under the UK System of “Traffic Lights” for international travel. The system ranks countries according to their COVID-19 risk and imposes quarantine measures on travelers upon their return to the UK accordingly.

The result has been that the UK travel industry effectively remains closed as the rules require a 10-day quarantine for arrivals from all countries in the European Union and the United States, which are on the Amber List. . The UK government still advises against travel to most countries with the exception of a handful which are on the green list.

The judicial review was prompted by the lack of transparency in the way the government made decisions during its first review of traffic light lists on June 3, which saw Portugal unexpectedly and without warning go green to orange, causing chaos for vacationers and industry alike. The government has also postponed the final lifting of the lockdown for an additional month until July 19.

During a “Travel Action Day” led by the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA), pilots, cabin crew, travel agents and other workers in the airline industry trip protested and picketed across the UK, urging politicians to reopen. foreign channels. The protests were scheduled ahead of the government’s second review of international travel requirements in late June.

In court documents – in which the Secretary of State for Health and the Secretary of State for Transport are named as defendants – MAG said the government has a duty to make it clear how it makes decisions on the categorization of countries and publish supporting data. , given the “dramatic” impact that these decisions have on aviation companies.

A MAG spokesperson told reporters the court had accepted his request for a fast-track hearing and the Minister of Transport and Minister of Health had until Monday, June 28, to file a defense. A hearing date is expected to be set either later next week or for the following week, the spokesperson added.

The government said its travel rules sought to balance reopening international travel with safeguarding public health and protecting the country’s immunization program.

But Ryanair has accused the UK’s travel policy of being “a confusing go-stop-go-stop system, causing untold damage to the inbound tourism industry to the UK”.

“The UK’s COVID travel policy is a shambles,” Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary accused. “The green list is non-existent because countries like Malta and Portugal, with lower COVID cases than the UK and rapidly increasing vaccination rates, remain on the orange color. Meanwhile, British citizens, nearly 80% of whom will be vaccinated by the end of June, continue to face COVID restrictions on travel to and from the European Union, despite the fact that the majority citizens of the European Union will also be vaccinated by the end. of June.

MAG Managing Director Charlie Cornish said: “Government is not open and we just cannot understand how it makes decisions that are fundamental to our ability to plan and give clients the confidence to book their trip in advance. “

“When this framework was put in place, consumers were promised a waiting list to allow them to plan,” commented easyJet Managing Director Johan Lundgren. “Yet the government has torn up its own rulebook and ignored the science, throwing people’s plans into chaos, with virtually no notice or alternate options for traveling from the UK. This move essentially cuts the UK off from the UK. rest of the world. “


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