Travel list: Govt 'making it up as they go' says Ryanair CEO
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On Thursday evening, Secretary of State for Transport confirmed the Government would be taking a “safety first” approach to the UK green list by removing Portugal and making no further new additions. The news came as a blow to holidaymakers and airlines, which had been ramping up capacity for green listed Portugal.
Now, with cancellations likely, what are the latest updates from easyJet, Jet2, TUI, British Airways, Ryanair & Virgin Atlantic?
easyJet has confirmed it will ramp up capacity in a bid to help Britons in Portugal get home before the new quarantine rules come into force on Tuesday.
The Luton-based carrier is set to operate larger plans and add extra flights with over 1,000 extra seats added on routes from Faro to Gatwick, Luton, Manchester and Bristol.
Following the Government announcement, easyJet CEO Johan Lundgren described the move as a “huge blow”.
He said: “This shock decision to add Portugal to the amber list is a huge blow to those who are currently in Portugal and those who have booked to be reunited with loved ones or take a well-deserved break this summer with Portugal rates similar to those in the UK it simply isn’t justified.”
The airline is offering a flexible booking policy for both flight-only and package holiday bookings.
Customers are now able to change their flights up to two hours before departure without incurring a fee.
The easyJet website explains: “You can edit your booking until two hours before your flight is due to depart – even if you’ve checked in. Once you’ve made your changes just check in again, and remember to reprint your boarding pass(es).”
The airline is also operating its own traffic light system in line with Government advice.
Green and some amber list countries continue to operate, as long as customers are willing to meet the testing and isolation requirements asked of them for their specific destination.
The orange-tipped carrier has partnered with Randox to provide COVID-19 test kits for customers who are required to take them.
In a blow to holidaymakers, Jet2 and Jet2holidays have made the decision to further suspend travel plans until July 1.
The Leeds-based airline has cancelled all of its Portugal flights throughout June, as well as flights and holidays to red list Turkey.
In a statement released following the June traffic light announcement, the airline said: “Following today’s update, we have taken the decision to restart flights and holidays on July 1, 2021.
“For any destinations currently on the Amber List, we are also allowing customers to amend their booking free of charge if they are due to travel between July 1 and July 21, 2021.”
Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2, said he was “disappointment” at the fact the UK refuses to “open up” in the same way lots of Europe has.
Mr Heapy said: “We know how disappointed our customers and independent travel agency partners will be following today’s announcement, and we share their concerns and frustrations.
“We are now calling for complete openness and transparency when it comes to the data so that customers and the industry can really understand what is driving these decisions.”
The Jet2 boss added: “We agree that public health must be the number one priority.
“However, despite all the evidence and data showing that travel can restart safely and at scale, the UK continues to remain largely grounded whilst the rest of Europe opens up.”
Customers who have had their holiday cancelled will be entitled to a full refund.
Following the Government announcement, TUI issued a statement explaining customers due to travel to Portugal will be contacted in the coming days.
“We’re aware of the Government announcement on June 3 that Portugal, Madeira and Porto Santo will be added to the Amber list from 4am on Tuesday, June 8,” explained a TUI spokesperson.
“We’re currently reviewing our programme following this announcement, and will be contacting customers who are impacted, including those currently on holiday, and those who are due to depart in the next 14 days, as soon as possible to discuss their options.”
TUI has updated its travel alerts page for its customers who are currently on holiday in Portugal.
The website adds: “If you have a holiday booked to Portugal, Madeira or Porto Santo which is due to depart on or before June 17 2021, and you’re unable to self-isolate on your return, you can change your holiday to a future date fee-free. Please get in touch with us to arrange this.
“If you have a holiday booked to Portugal, Madeira or Porto Santo which is due to depart after June 17 2021, you may be able to take advantage of our fee-free changes policy.”
TUI has an ongoing “Holiday Promise” for customers which assures it will not fly them to countries where they can not side-step quarantine with proof of vaccination or by providing a negative COVID-19 test.
They are also not flying to red destinations.
To help customers access affordable testing packages, TUI has partnered with Chronomics with prices starting at £20 per person.
The airline also continues to offer its fee-free changes policy to the end of October, for package holiday, flight-only and accommodation-only customers.
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British Airways has continued to operate a “reduced and dynamic” service throughout the pandemic for those who need to travel.
It resumed some package holidays from May 17, though has since faced problems as a result of Portugal being removed from the green list.
Following the latest traffic light announcement, a spokesperson said: “This is incredibly disappointing and confusing news, not just for aviation but also for our customers.
“The UK has reached a critical point and urgently needs travel with low-risk countries, like the US, to re-start the economy, support devastated industries and reunite loved ones.
“With high levels of vaccinations in the UK being matched by other countries, we should see the UK Government adding destinations to ‘green’ as soon as possible – not turning its back on a traffic light model which we were led to believe was based firmly on scientific data.”
The airline is counting to offer its protection promise allowing customers more flexibility to change bookings.
British Airways has also launched pre-departure tests for only £40, as well as a number of discounts.
Discount codes are offered via the websites and cover home tests, private testing centres and airport test centres in Heathrow and London City.
The British flag bearing airline has also teamed up with Allianz Assistance to provide COVID-19 insurance for customers in the UK.
Ryanair has continued to operate some flights throughout the pandemic, though has recently ramped up its offering.
Following the Government’s latest traffic light announcement, the Irish-based carrier “condemned” the decision.
Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary said: “Boris Johnson’s Government is again mismanaging the Covid recovery.
“This stop-go-stop approach to short-haul travel in Europe is inexplicable and unjustified when 75 percent of the UK population has now received a Covid vaccine.
“There is no medical or public health reason for moving Portugal from the Green to the amber list when its Covid case rates are as low as the UK at just 50 per 100,000 population, and Portugal’s vaccine rollout programme has exceeded 40 percent and is rapidly catching up with UK levels.
“UK citizens who have already booked travel to Portugal deserve an explanation why vaccinated UK citizens are required to quarantine when returning from a country which has similarly low Covid case rates as the UK.”
He added: “Transport Minister Shapps should also explain why those countries such as Malta, or Islands such as the Balearics and the Canaries, who have significantly lower Covid case rates than the UK, have not been added to the UK Green List to allow UK families a well-earned holiday in June, July and August, particularly when those UK families have already been vaccinated.
“This is sadly further evidence that the Johnson Government just makes it up as they go along, and this stop-go-stop approach to international travel is damaging for the UK and for millions of UK families.”
The airline is continuing to offer its fee-free changes for passengers who need to amend their destination or dates of travel.
This currently applies to bookings made up to September 30 allowing changes to be made through December 31, 2021.
The airline adds: “Flight changes must take place at least 7 days before the original scheduled departure dates to avail of promotion.”
Passengers who are due to travel with the airline are reminded to “check with the relevant authorities before you fly”.
Ryanair has also teamed up with COVID-19 testing company Randox to provide test packages for customers who require tests for “green” or “amber” countries.
Virgin Atlantic has continued to operate some flights throughout the pandemic.
Following the Government’s latest decision Virgin Atlantic described the UK Government as being “overly cautious”.
He added: “We are yet to see clear and transparent guidance on the methodology and data the Government is basing these decisions on.”
The airline continues to offer its “flexible booking policy” which allows customers to make changes to bookings without admin charges.
On the Virgin website it explains: “For all flights and holidays up to April 30, 2022, you can change your dates as often as you like.
“You can even choose a different destination or make one name change.
“You’ll just need to make sure you travel by April 20, 2023, and make any changes before your original departure date – three weeks before your Virgin Holiday.”
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