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International Travel Relaunch or a Damp Squib?


March 9, 2021


It was the announcement so many have been waiting for. Early on Friday April 9, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said that UK residents could start thinking about booking international travel again. In doing so, he signalled the unveiling of the details of the long-awaited recovery plan for international travel. This plan envisages a regime in which UK nationals will again soon be able to travel abroad for leisure purposes (currently residents are unable to travel abroad without good reason, and risk a £5,000 for non-compliance), albeit constrained to a lesser or greater degree by the need to be tested, quarantine at home or even quarantine in a hotel upon return depending on the destination from which they are returning.


Within hours – although it seemed much quicker than that – industry bodies and operators came forward, expressing concerns about the plan. In particular, disappointments were raised about the continuing uncertainty about which destinations would be classified as green (no quarantine on return), amber (quarantine at home) and red (quarantine in a hotel) – and equally about the cost of the post-return test, which the government mandate insists must be the more costly PCR.



Although the roadmap suggested UK residents may resume international travel on May 17, with a “heavy heart” the boss of Jet2Holidays almost immediately extended the suspension of all of the company’s holidays until June 23, citing uncertainty over which countries his customers would be able to visit in mid-May. easyJet’s Chief Executive Johan Lundgren quickly entered the fray too, saying that the need for passengers coming back to England to take a PCR test was "a blow " and risked "making flying only for the wealthy" as these tests typically cost upwards of £100 per person at present. Next Andrew Flintham, Managing Director of Tui UK and Ireland, said that he was "disappointed about the expensive testing and quarantine measures proposed". Shai Wiess of Virgin Atlantic also questioned the government’s plan based on the costs of a PCR test, suggesting that those traveling from “green” countries should not be subject to tests at all, or only to the cheaper and quicker tests while the more costly PCR tests should only be required for anyone who does test positive.


Adding to the uncertainty of course is that countries will undoubtedly be added to – and removed from – the ‘gree