Heathrow chief calls for France,Greece and Spain to be added to UK’s travel green list this summer

The boss of Britain’s largest airport today warned that 500,000 UK travel jobs could be put at risk if the Government does not expand the travel ‘Green List’ this summer.

Speaking on the day the UK’s international travel ban was lifted, Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye urged ministers to give the industry and British holidaymakers ‘confidence’ that they will be able to jet-off to top European destinations this year.

From today 12 countries, including Portugal, Gibraltar and conflict-hit Israel, are on the UK’s travel ‘Green List’ – meaning travelers do not need to isolate on their return.

But holiday hot spots such as Spain, France and Greece have all been put on the Amber List – forcing travelers to self-isolate for up to 10 days on their return.

Mr Holland-Kaye warned many travel companies faced a make-or-break summer, after a year of heavy restrictions and travel bans.

He urged the Government to move the US and Caribbean from the Amber List to the Green List as early as next month.

And he said he hoped that France, Greece and Spain – also on the Amber List – would also be added to the Green List ahead of the summer holiday season.

Speaking at a press conference at Heathrow Airport today, Mr Holland-Kaye said: ‘The travel industry continues to face real pressure.

‘Travel companies rely on the profits they make in the summer to see them through the rest of the year. 

Speaking on the day the UK's international travel ban was lifted, Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye urged ministers to give the industry and British holidaymakers 'confidence' that they will be able to jet-off to top European destinations this summer

Speaking on the day the UK's international travel ban was lifted, Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye urged ministers to give the industry and British holidaymakers 'confidence' that they will be able to jet-off to top European destinations this summer

Speaking on the day the UK’s international travel ban was lifted, Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye urged ministers to give the industry and British holidaymakers ‘confidence’ that they will be able to jet-off to top European destinations this summer

‘If there is no getaway in July and August, many companies will not make it until next year. 

‘So delaying a restart, even by a couple of months, puts half a million UK jobs at risk.

‘And this is not a choice between public health and the economy, we can have both, applying fully the Government’s risk-based approach.’

He stressed that the industry had significantly more tools at its disposal this year than it did in 2020 to keep passengers safe.

The four demands made by Heathrow’s CEO to help the travel industry this summer  

Speaking at the a press conference at Heathrow Airport today, CEO John Holland-Kaye issued four demands to the Government to help the travel industry this summer.

They are: 

– To expand the Green List in early June – with the US and the Caribbean two areas highlighted as musts. He also urged France, Greece and Spain be added this summer;

– To remove the requirement for fully vaccinated passengers to take expensive PCR tests on their return to the UK;

– To remove VAT on Covid tests to help drive the cost down for passengers;

– To move towards a system of lateral flow tests, with a confirmatory PCR tests for passengers who produce a positive result.

 

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He highlighted new and improved Covid testing, social distancing measures, stringent cleaning procedures and the impact of vaccines on the risk of transmission.

But he called for an end to the ‘burden’ of high cost PCR tests on fully vaccinated passengers, saying that the risk of transmission halved among those who had received two doses of the jab.

He called on the Government to move towards a system where passengers took lateral flow tests first, adding that gold standard PCR tests could then be used to confirm positive results.

Mr Holland-Kaye also called on the Government to cut VAT on Covid tests, to help drive down the prices.

He added: ‘We are ready to go. We have spent the last year adapting to these unprecedented changes.

‘We are not calling for a return to unregulated travel yet. But we are calling on the Government to expand the green list at the beginning of June, particularly to include the US and the Caribbean.

‘We also want to remove the need for fully vaccinated customers to take a test and remove VAT to bring the cost down.’

It comes as Ryanair reported a record annual after-tax loss of £700million (815 euros) today after Covid restrictions forced it to scrap over 80 per cent of all flights – but the Irish airline said there were signs the recovery had begun.

Europe’s largest discount airline flew 27.5million passengers in its financial year to the end of March, down from 149million the previous year in what it called ‘the most challenging in Ryanair’s 35-year history.’

Boss Michael O’Leary said the airline was ‘very optimistic for the next couple of months’ after bookings trebled during the past six weeks.

He told BBC Breakfast: ‘The UK vaccine programme has been extraordinarily successful. We’re up to 60% of the adult population having received their first dose.

Ryanair reported a record annual after-tax loss of £700million (815 euros) today after Covid restrictions forced it to scrap over 80 per cent of flights

Ryanair reported a record annual after-tax loss of £700million (815 euros) today after Covid restrictions forced it to scrap over 80 per cent of flights

Ryanair reported a record annual after-tax loss of £700million (815 euros) today after Covid restrictions forced it to scrap over 80 per cent of flights

‘European countries recognise that. They’re beginning to lift restrictions on inbound UK visitors.

‘Portugal this morning. We’re very hopeful that Italy and Greece will be added to that green list before the end of May, and Spain will come shortly thereafter.’

The airline reiterated its forecast that passenger numbers for the current fiscal year would be towards the lower end of a 80 million to 120 million passenger range. It expects to fly just 5million to 6million passengers in the April-June quarter.

It is looking to returning to pre-Covid growth in summer 2022 with the help of the delivery of Boeing 737 ‘Gamechanger’ aircraft and new bases in Billund, Riga, Stockholm, Zadar and Zagreb. 

Mr O’Leary predicted that fares will remain low this summer but could soar in 2022 as the number of seats will be 25% lower than before the pandemic due to airlines collapsing or reducing their operations.

He said: ‘There’s no doubt in my mind that prices will rise, particularly during the peaks of the bank holiday weekends, the school holiday travel period, but that won’t affect bookings for summer 2021.

‘In 2021 prices will never be cheaper because all the airlines are running with much lower advanced bookings than we have ever had before because of the travel restrictions.

‘So I think this summer there are going to be great travel bargains. Get on the Ryanair website and book them now.

‘But summer 2022, we will be urging people to book very early because I think there’s less seats and pricing will be higher.’  

The budget airline has described the financial year as ‘the most challenging’ in the firm’s 35-year history due to the pandemic.

‘There was a partial recovery during summer 2020, as initial lockdowns eased, however a second Covid-19 wave in Europe followed quickly in the autumn with a third wave in spring,’ Ryanair said in a statement.

‘This created enormous disruptions and uncertainty for both our customers and our people, as they suffered constantly changing Government guidelines, travel bans and restrictions.

‘Ryanair responded promptly, and effectively, to this crisis, by working hard to assist millions of customers with flight changes, refunds and changed travel plans.

‘We minimised job losses through agreed pay cuts and participation in Government job support schemes, while at the same time keeping our pilots, cabin crew and aircraft current and ready to resume service once normality returns.’

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