Majorca beach

Majorca beach

Travel bosses have given a cautious welcome to the announcement that fully vaccinated travellers returning from amber-list countries will not have to self-isolate after 19 July.

EasyJet boss Johan Lundgren said he did not want to see “a return to flying being a preserve of the rich”.

“Expensive testing could sadly make travel out of reach for some,” he said.

Airlines and airports said millions of people could have a more normal summer, but there was still work to do.

The need to quarantine on return had hindered a travel industry recovery. Under previous rules, those returning to Britain from its top destinations, Spain, France, the US and Italy, all had to self-isolate for up to 10 days.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the Commons, however, that Britons returning from amber list destinations would still have take a Covid-19 test before they arrive home and then a second test on or before day two.

Children under the age of 18 will not have to self-isolate, but will need to take tests. There is no change to red-list travel restrictions.

Heathrow Airport chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “This is excellent news that will give a much needed boost to millions of people across Britain looking forward to a more normal summer and reuniting with family and friends abroad.

“But the job isn’t done,” he said, adding: “The UK should open up travel to fully vaccinated people from more countries – particularly our key partners in the US – by the end of July.”

He said Heathrow was “working closely” with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic to demonstrate this could be done safely, with checks on departure, and no need for delays at immigration on arrival.

Dame Irene Hays, boss of independent travel agent Hays Travel, told the BBC she was “absolutely delighted” by the move.

“I think it’s a huge step in the right direction,” she said, adding that it came at the right time for all those whose holidays had been cancelled last year and who had been “sitting there with their fingers crossed” hoping for good news.

She acknowledged that there were still “some constraints”, especially involving testing, but advised would-be holidaymakers to have good travel insurance.

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  • But “an amber list country could still turn red”, warned Mr Shapps, meaning hotel quarantine would become a requirement

Gatwick chief executive Stewart Wingate described the new rules as “another small step in the right direction”.

“However, with summer holidays just around the corner, we are approaching a crucial time for our industry and we urge government to remove other barriers inhibiting international travel, including the need for costly PCR tests for those who have been double vaccinated,” he added.

British Airways chief executive and chairman Sean Doyle welcomed what he called a “common-sense approach which is already working safely for many other countries”.

“But there is more work to do,” he added.

“While the quarantine requirement for ‘amber’

UK government’s traffic light COVID risk ranking system will make overseas flights too expensive for many, airline group says.

Airlines have criticised the United Kingdom’s plans for restarting international travel, saying that expensive testing requirements for trips to low-risk countries would mean that only wealthy people could take holidays abroad.

Under government proposals, airlines and passengers will not find out until early May whether international travel resumes from May 17, a plan which fell short of industry hopes for clarity.

Airlines and travel companies are desperate for a bumper northern hemisphere summer after a year of restrictions. Without a high level of unrestricted travel, some could be left struggling to survive or needing fresh funds.

The government has proposed a traffic light system, with countries falling into red, amber or green categories based on COVID-19 risks. Green countries will require a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test which costs about 100 pounds ($135) for travellers once they arrive back in the UK.

“This does not represent a reopening of travel as promised by ministers,” said Airlines UK, an industry body which represents British Airways, easyJet, Ryanair, Virgin Atlantic and others.

“It is a further setback for an industry on its knees.”

‘Reversing the clock’

EasyJet, the UK’s biggest airline by passenger numbers, singled out the PCR testing requirement, the cost of which it says is higher than some of its fares, and called on the government to reassess its plan.

EasyJet, the UK’s biggest airline by passenger numbers, says PCR tests for COVID-19 cost more than some of its fares [File: Sean Gallup/Getty Images]

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

Britons have embraced the era of low-cost travel over the last 20 years and are among Europe’s highest-spending tourists. In 2019, more than six in 10 Britons took a foreign holiday.

Transport Minister Grant Shapps said the government wanted to make testing for travel cheaper and suggested that in time, the PCR test could be changed for a more affordable lateral flow test.

“We are committed as a government to work to drive those costs down, and also in time of course review potentially the type of test,” he told the BBC.

The framework for travel will be reviewed at the end of June, July and again in October, the government has said.

“I’m not telling people that they shouldn’t book some holidays now,” Shapps said. “It’s the first time I’ve been able to say that for many months.”

Case numbers in the UK have dropped dramatically since a January peak under a strict lockdown which has banned holidays, but a government priority is to avoid undermining the success of its vaccination programme by importing vaccine-resistant variants from overseas.

Under the traffic light system, restrictions such as hotel quarantine, home quarantine and compulsory COVID tests will apply differently depending on which category of country a passenger arrives from.

There will be a “green watchlist” identifying countries most at risk