Aviation leaders have welcomed the prime minister’s confirmation that day two tests for fully vaccinated travellers arriving into England will be removed.
Boris Johnson confirmed the widely-trailed policy change earlier today, and transport secretary Grant Shapps followed up with more details in a statement to the House of Commons on Monday afternoon.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, which represents UK-registered carriers, said: “This is a landmark day for passengers, businesses and UK plc.
“Nearly two years since the initial Covid restrictions were introduced, today’s announcement brings international travel towards near-normality for the fully vaccinated, and at last into line with hospitality and the domestic economy.
“It will offer further reassurance to those planning to travel, both overseas and into the UK, and demonstrates again that following the success of the vaccine programme, the UK can lead the world in our recovery from the pandemic.
“With the all-important half-term week approaching, passengers should now get booking, and airlines look forward to using the connectivity they’re proud to facilitate to turbo-charge the economic recovery for all of the UK.”
EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said: “We welcome this news knowing that millions of our customers will also be delighted to see the return of restriction free travel in the UK. We now look ahead to what we believe will be a strong summer.
“We believe testing for travel should now firmly become a thing of the past. It is clear travel restrictions did not materially slow the spread of Omicron in the UK and so it is important that there are no more knee jerk reactions to future variants.
“We commend the government for removing all testing. EasyJet plans to return to near 2019 levels of flying this summer and so we can’t wait to welcome our customers back onboard.”
British Airways chairman and chief executive, Sean Doyle, said: “Today’s announcement provides a welcome boost to the travel industry and UK economy.
“Finally fully-vaccinated customers can start to book with confidence whether they are doing business, going on holiday or reuniting with friends and family without the additional costly and time-consuming burden of testing. It sends a clear message to the rest of the world that global Britain is back in business.”
Jet2.com and Jet2holidays chief executive Steve Heapy said: “This travel update is a real game-changer for the millions of people who simply want to get away to enjoy their well-deserved holidays.
“Today’s announcement means vaccinated customers can once again book and travel on the normal, hassle-free holidays that they know and love. We applaud the government for taking meaningful action to end a set of measures which were not only unnecessary but also ineffective in tackling the spread of the Omicron variant.
“This should now represent a permanent end to such restrictions, and we know customers and independent travel agents will celebrate that news.”
A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said: “Britain is now open for business and it’s vital that the aviation industry is allowed to lead the way in boosting prospects for economic recovery.
“The removal of all testing for vaccinated passengers is the final step in moving towards frictionless air travel, allowing passengers to reconnect with loved ones and business colleagues. It restores customer confidence and demand will be boosted in a critical booking window for the travel industry.
“We have demonstrated that international travel can operate safely, taking full advantage of our world leading vaccine rollout. To ensure certainty for the industry, we will continue to work with UK government on an evidence-based framework for variants of concern, eliminating border closures which have proven to be ineffective.”
Airport Operators Association chief executive, Karen Dee, said: “The easing of restrictions for both fully vaccinated and unvaccinated travellers arriving in England is a welcome recognition of the vaccine’s effectiveness and the limited impact of travel bans and restrictions on the spread of Covid-19.
“The abolition of the Day two test for fully vaccinated passengers ahead of the February half-term for many schools across the UK means families can now book with confidence and save money on the cost of testing.
“We now look forward to working with ministers on a comprehensive recovery plan for the UK’s connectivity.
“Aviation connectivity is a catalyst for economic growth, and bringing routes back will be vital for the UK’s economic recovery as well as for the UK government’s ‘Global Britain’ and ‘Levelling Up’ ambitions.
Dee called for devolved nations to mirror the changes, and urged them to “set out clearly how they will respond if a new variant emerges as preparedness and transparency are vital for consumer and industry confidence.”
Charlie Cornish, chief executive of Manchester Airports Group, said: “This important announcement is excellent news for our sector’s recovery.
“This change will be welcomed by the millions of vaccinated people who are desperate to travel and will now be able to do so – restriction-free – for the first time in more than a year.
“The latest research shows travel restrictions do very little to stop the spread of variants like Omicron. Removing them will ensure the many cultural, social and economic benefits of international travel can be realised without any major impact on public health.
“With Britain reopened for business, we’re looking forward to helping people across the country get back to visiting exciting new places, finding fresh trading opportunities overseas, and travelling to see friends and loved ones again.”
Balpa general secretary Martin Chalk said: “It is important now that government confirms the permanent end of travel restrictions.”
“Public confidence in travel is low, and we cannot have a repeat of rapidly and regularly changing rules, confusing and scaring the public into not travelling.
“Our world class aviation sector cannot survive any longer without a clear way out of this crisis.”
Chalk reiterated calls for the Prime Minister to sign up to the pilots’ union’s suggestion of an Aviation Recovery Plan.
“We urge the government to use our expertise and listen to industry voices as it shapes the supportive environment for our collective future,” he said. “To fail to support UK aviation would be unconscionable and will slam the brakes on the long-term national recovery before it has even begun. The time for action is now.”