Turmoil over foreign holiday rules wipes £2bn off airline shares

‘This is killing our industry’: Turmoil over foreign holiday rules wipes £2bn off airline shares as travel bosses accuse ministers of laying waste to the sector

  • Industry figures warned that at least half the 1.6million jobs in the sector had either already been lost or were now at risk after government’s green list shrink
  • Furthermore, many more redundancies are now feared in the industry
  • Many had been hoping for a green list expansion and return of summer holidays 
  • Instead, with the next review three weeks away, travel bosses were left fearing ‘another lost summer’ and a shattering of consumer confidence 

Travel bosses accused ministers of laying waste to the industry and isolating Britain last night amid fears the ongoing shutdown could cost the economy more than £11billion.

The shrinking of the green list, the move to downgrade Portugal and the expansion of the red list wiped £2billion off the value of airlines.

Meanwhile, industry figures warned that at least half the 1.6million jobs in the sector had either already been lost or were now at risk, with many more redundancies feared.

Many had been hoping for an expansion of the green list and a signal that foreign holidays will be back on the agenda this summer. Instead, with the next review three weeks away, travel bosses were left fearing ‘another lost summer’ and a shattering of consumer confidence.

Travel bosses accused ministers of laying waste to the industry and isolating Britain last night amid fears the ongoing shutdown could cost the economy more than £11billion. Pictured: London’ Heathrow airport’s international arrival gate on June 3

Mark Tanzer, chief executive of the travel agents’ association Abta, said it was clear the Government’s strategy was ‘continuing to prevent any meaningful resumption of international travel’. He suggested it was time ministers considered bailing out the industry.

He warned: ‘You can’t build the recovery of a multi-billion-pound sector while mass market holiday destinations remain off the green list. The removal of Portugal comes on the back on what was already a very short and cautious green list.

‘Travel agents and tour operators haven’t been able to generate income since the start of the pandemic and have been depending on the return of international travel to help bring some much needed relief. The Government now needs to come forward with tailored financial support for the sector.’

Other travel bosses meanwhile were equally scathing. EasyJet boss Johan Lundgren accused the Government of having ‘torn up its own rule book’; Brian Strutton, from the pilots’ union, said the decision to axe Portugal from the green list was ‘a total disaster for the already fragile travel industry’; while Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, which represents carriers, accused the Government of leading the industry on a ‘painful merry dance’.

The outcry came after the Government said Portugal would be added to the amber list from next Tuesday, forcing thousands of British holidaymakers to cancel their trips or cut them short to avoid quarantine.

It means there will be just 11 countries or territories on the green list, of which only Iceland and Gibraltar are viable holiday destinations. Hopes that the Balearics or Greek islands could be added were also scuppered.

Instead, seven countries are being added to the red list, forcing anyone returning from them to quarantine in Government-approved hotels at a cost of up to £1,750 per person.

Senior figures warned the about-turn would devastate confidence in foreign holidays because of the uncertainty over whether a green country could suddenly turn amber.

Industry figures warned that at least half the 1.6million jobs in the sector had either already been lost or were now at risk, with many more redundancies feared

In 2019, outbound tourism was worth £11.7billion to the UK economy for the summer months, according to the Future of Aviation Parliamentary Group. If the travel list stays as it is now for June, July and August, then it will only be worth a £200million.

Shares in IAG, the parent company of British Airways, fell 5 per cent, with easyJet sinking about the same. Ryanair closed 1.3 per cent lower and TUI fell about 4.5 per cent.

BA warned the UK had reached a ‘critical point’ and was in urgent need of more air travel for business and pleasure to restart the economy and reunite loved ones.

Karen Dee, boss of the Airport Operators Association, added: ‘Summer 2021 is shaping up to be worse than last summer, which was the worst in aviation history.

‘Analysis has shown that 860,000 jobs of the 1.6million UK jobs in aviation, travel and tourism were lost or sustained only due to government furlough schemes since the pandemic started.’

Mr Lundgren said: ‘The Government has torn up its own rule book and ignored the science, throwing people’s plans into chaos, with virtually no notice or alternative options for travel from the UK.’

Union boss Mr Stratton said: ‘Our airlines need this summer season if they are to survive.’

Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye called for rapid action to reopen flights to key trading partners and remove testing for vaccinated passengers from countries on the green list.

In a howl of protest, bosses tell of panic and job loss fears amid yet more chaos 

Andrew Flintham – TUI

Unlike other European countries and despite multiple requests, the Government has refused to be transparent about the data requirements for green, amber and red destinations.

We must see the methodology so we can help our customers and plan our operations accordingly. There are destinations around the world with little or no Covid-19 cases and good vaccination rates, so we need to understand why these remain on the amber list.

John Holland-Kaye – Heathrow

Ministers spent last month hailing the restart of international travel, only to close it down three weeks later, all but guaranteeing another lost summer for the travel sector.

Everyone wants to protect public health, but the entire point of the Global Travel Taskforce was to establish a system to unlock low-risk travel safely. 

Britain is the worst performing economy in the G7, and in the week that the Prime Minister hosts G7 leaders to launch his Government’s vision of Global Britain, he’s sending a message that the UK will remain isolated from the rest of the world and closed to most of its G7 partners.

Johan Lundgren – easyJet

When this framework was put together, consumers were promised a waiting list to allow them to plan. 

Yet the Government has torn up its own rule book and ignored the science, throwing people’s plans into chaos, with virtually no notice or alternative options for travel from the UK.

This decision essentially cuts the UK off from the rest of the world.

Brian Strutton – Balpa (Airline Pilots Association)

This decision is a total disaster for the already fragile travel industry and is likely to lead to further airline failures and many more job losses. 

Any shred of public confidence is in tatters and the traffic light system seems stuck on red.

Tim Alderslade – Airlines UK

This is no way to treat passengers. The Government promised a green watchlist to avoid this very scenario of people being stranded overseas – where is it?

This decision just adds to the belief that ministers don’t actually want international travel this summer, and want to cut off the UK from the rest of the world despite the success of the vaccination programme.

If that is the case they should be open and tell us rather than leading us and our customers further down this painful merry dance, and put in place longer-term support measures for an industry now on its knees.

Paul Charles – The PC Agency

They are basically putting at risk tens of thousands of jobs across aviation and the travel sector, and not showing any signs of helping the sector to recover.

They seem to want to continue to create an atmosphere of fear among travellers, which is totally at odds with other countries. There are several countries which meet the criteria to be on the green list, so this is clearly a politically-charged decision rather than one based on data.

Jab should give freedom, not timorous isolation… This decision to add seven more countries to the red list is a savage blow to the travel sector, writes Easyjet boss JOHAN LUNDGREN 

By Johan Lundgren, Ceo Of Easyjet For The Daily Mail   

After all the misery inflicted by the Covid pandemic, the travel industry desperately needed a shot in the arm.

Instead it has just been given a kick in the teeth.

At the very moment that Britain should be opening up, given that the virus is in retreat, the Government has decided to impose more restrictions.

In a depressing step backwards, it was announced yesterday that seven additional countries are joining the red list of high-risk destinations, including such popular hotspots such as Egypt, Sri Lanka and Trinidad.

Even more regrettably, the Government has actually removed Portugal from the green list of countries where journeys can be made without any requirements for quarantining and self-isolation.

‘At the very moment that Britain should be opening up, given that the virus is in retreat, the Government has decided to impose more restrictions’

This decision is a savage blow to the sector and to thousands of Britons, who are either in Portugal at the moment or had booked trips to go there soon.

Some will lose money, others will have holiday plans ruined – and for what? 

The exclusion of Portugal makes no sense and is wholly unjustified by science, since the country’s rates of Covid infection are much the same as the United Kingdom’s.

Nor is there any sign of disease beginning to surge again in Portugal, with hospital admissions and deaths at extremely low levels.

Indeed, the whole current system is riddled with gross inconsistencies and anomalies.

‘This decision is a savage blow to the sector and to thousands of Britons, who are either in Portugal at the moment or had booked trips to go there soon’

The British Government pledged to give special consideration to European islands, but that looks like another broken promise.

The Balearic Islands off Spain have a current Covid infection rate of just 33 per 100,000 people – significantly lower than the 50 per 100,000 in Britain – yet they remain on the amber list.

Similarly, restrictions still apply to Malta, where the infection rate is just 12 per 100,000. 

The reality is that, with the Covid crisis now rapidly diminishing throughout the continent, nearly all of Europe could be put on the British Government’s green list and such a step would not have any negative impact on the United Kingdom.

The absurdity of the Government’s stance is further highlighted by the fact that there are no restraints on domestic travel by car, train or air around Britain, yet a number of places badly affected by the Delta variant have far more serious Covid problems than most of Europe.

Britain’s ill-conceived approach is costing the airline industry millions of pounds. Jobs are being lost, livelihoods destroyed

Yesterday’s decision makes a mockery of the political rhetoric which promised that the vaccine programme would bring back normality and freedom. 

The jabs were meant to allow us back to the beaches of Spain and villages of France.

Yesterday, an important milestone was reached as more than half of the adult British population has now received two doses. 

Shouldn’t that have been the cue for great travel liberation rather than more tightening?

It is highly unconvincing of the Government to argue that caution is needed because of the risk from new variants. That is a recipe for a permanent shutdown. 

As the distinguished Oxford professor Sir John Bell put it this week: ‘If we scamper down the rabbit hole every time we see a new variant, we are going to spend a long time huddled away.’

If ministers think that Britons should not travel, then they should be honest, instead of presiding over endless chaos that wrecks plans, promotes frustration and damages business. 

But rather than being gripped by fear, they should look across to Europe where Governments are embracing openness.

Typical is the Netherlands, which allows unrestricted travel, without any further tests, both for anyone who has been fully vaccinated or anyone comes from a country that has an infection of less than 150 per 100,000.

‘If ministers think that Britons should not travel, then they should be honest, instead of presiding over endless chaos that wrecks plans, promotes frustration and damages business’

Britain’s ill-conceived approach is costing the airline industry millions of pounds. Jobs are being lost, livelihoods destroyed. 

This month alone, 1,800 flights were due to depart from Britain for Portugal. In light of the green list decision, many of those will now have to be withdrawn.

In one sense my own company of easyJet is lucky, in that 50 per cent of our operations are outside Europe.

Even so, like the rest of the industry, we have been badly affected.

A radical change in thinking is needed.

Brexit, we were told, was a great opportunity for Britain to take its place on the global stage as a buccaneering, ambitious nation.

That chance is now being squandered as ministers pull us into timorous isolation. 

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