Only the Rich Can Fly Under UK’s Travel Restart Plan, Airlines Say

April 9, 2021 Updated: April 9, 2021

Britain’s airline industry has criticised the government’s plan to restart international travel, saying it’s too expensive and will make flying unaffordable.

The government’s Global Travel Taskforce published a report on Friday, which set out COVID-19 testing requirements for international travellers but gave no clarity on whether Britons will be allowed to travel abroad from May 17.

The Department for Transport (DfT) said the risks posed by variants of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus “remain significant” and therefore restrictions for inbound passengers will remain in place, including 10-day managed quarantine, home quarantine, and testing.

A “traffic light system” will be set up to categorise countries as “green,” “amber,” or “red” based on risk. Different travel restrictions will be imposed on travellers from different countries based on the categorisation.

While those travelling from “green” countries will not need to quarantine as those from “amber” or “red” countries must, even they need to take at least one expensive PCR test, which costs about £100 ($135).

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “The framework announced today will help allow us to reopen travel safely and sustainably, ensure we protect our hard-won achievements on the vaccine roll out, and offer peace of mind to both passengers and industry as we begin to take trips abroad once again.”

But prominent figures in the UK airline industry blasted the government plan for making travel unviable for many.

“This does not represent a reopening of travel as promised by ministers, and the insistence on expensive and unnecessary PCR testing rather than rapid testing—even for low-risk countries—will pose an unsustainable burden on passengers, making travel unviable and unaffordable for many people,” said Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines UK, the industry body representing UK-registered carriers.

“It is also a further setback for an industry on its knees and the UK’s wider economic recovery, with many businesses and exporters reliant upon our domestic and international connectivity and a thriving aviation sector.

“All the evidence suggests you can reopen travel safely and in a risk-based manner with more proportionate measures, and we urge government to work with industry on a faster, cheaper and less complex solution,” he said in a statement.

EasyJet, Britain’s biggest airline by passenger numbers, also questioned the PCR testing requirement, the cost of which it says is higher than some of its fares, and called on the government to re-assess its plan.

“This risks reversing the clock and making flying only for the wealthy,” said easyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren.

Reuters contributed to this report.