A group of airlines led by the owner of Manchester and Stansted airports has failed in a legal bid to force the UK government to reveal how it decides how different countries are categorised under a controversial traffic light system for international travel.
Transport minister Grant Shapps unveiled the traffic light system in May in an attempt to reopen international travel and bring more certainty for travellers looking to book trips abroad. The system was thrown into disarray just weeks after being introduced when Portugal was moved to a higher category with little notice.
The government says decisions are based on the latest data which is reviewed by the Joint Biosecurity Centre (JBC). The government has, however, refused to release the criteria and data on which the JBC makes its recommendations to the government.
Manchester Airport Group, which was joined by Ryanair, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, TUI and easyJet, brought proceedings calling for the British courts to force the government to release this data.
“Without sight or understanding of this decision-making process, the aviation sector – already the worst-hit part of the UK economy as a result of the pandemic – is unable to plan its recovery, as countries are added and removed from the safe travel list with no obvious logic, forewarning or consultation with the industry,” a spokesperson for MAG explained last week.
Judges at London’s High Court agreed there had been a lack of transparency from the government but declined to force the government to hand over the data. Instead, the judges said ministers should continue to review the rules.
The near-constant changing of travel rules has decimated the British travel industry while European competitors see sales surge.
According to British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle, travel bookings in Germany have soared to 60 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. In the UK, sales remain at just 16 per cent of the levels they were in 2019.
“FIgures like these show just how impossibly difficult our customers are finding the rapid and inexplicable changes in rules for travel,” Doyle complained in an opinion piece in the Daily Mail on Sunday. “The reality is that life is not returning to normal and our freedom to travel is curtailed”.
“Countries have been on the green list, off the green list, moved without notice to the amber list – and then, on Friday, another last-minute change saw France become the only country on the amber list to have to follow the original rules pre-July 19. Meanwhile, our European neighbours are way ahead,” Doyle continued.
On Monday, government sources revealed that other popular summer destinations including Spain could also be added to what has been dubbed the Amber+ list.
A spokesperson for the Department of Transport remained unapologetic saying that any measures taken are “guided by the latest data”.
“Public health remains our top priority, and we will not hesitate to act should the data show that countries risk ratings have changed,” the spokesperson continued.
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.