The British travel and aviation industry has reacted with dismay to the publication of the UK’s travel Green List from which passengers can come without needing to quarantine after arrival. Only 12 countries and territories have so far made the list for when non-essential travel is once again permitted on May 17 – half of those currently have their own inbound travel bans.
The initial Green List is as follows: Australia, Brunei, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Iceland, Israel, New Zealand, Portugal (including Azores and Madeira), Singapore, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, St Helena, Ascension and Tristan de Cunha.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps defended the deliberately cautious resumption of international travel, describing the UK as a fortress that had to be protected from an invasion of foreign mutant COVID-19 variants.
Shapps warned that “tough measures” including mandatory testing would lead to long queues at the border and that travel to Amber List countries would be discouraged. There were no concessions for fully vaccinated travellers who will still need to take multiple COVID-19 tests and go into quarantine if arriving from an Amber or Red List country.
The list will, however, be reviewed every three weeks with data provided by the Joint Biosecurity Centre, opening up the possibility that other countries could be added over the summer. Key metrics include vaccine rollout, infection rates and widespread genomic sequencing to detect mutant variants.
“This is a missed opportunity and with so few countries making it onto the Green list represents a reopening of air travel in name only,” slammed Airlines UK, an industry lobby group that represents the likes of British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, easyJet and TUI.
Tim Alderslade, the chief executive of Airlines UK questioned why Shapps had failed to account for the protection offered by vaccines: “By contrast the EU has said vaccinated people will be able to travel without restrictions.”
Alderslade warned the Green List: “leaves the UK at risk of falling behind and not opening up international travel to key markets across Europe as well as the United States.”
The director general of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), Willie Walsh, was so disappointed with the news that he could hardly bring himself to comment on it. “It’s very disappointing and frankly not worth commenting on,” Walsh said shortly after the list was published.
The BALPA pilots union, meanwhile, warned that jobs were at risk if more countries weren’t added to the Green List as soon as possible.
“The Government has at least committed to review the categories regularly,” commented Brian Strutton, BALPA’s general secretary. “Tourists are sat gazing at the amber light, revving their engines, desperate to travel safe in the knowledge that their jabs will protect them,” he continued.
“The Government must flick those amber lights to green as soon as it possibly can.”
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.