EasyJet says the UK “missed the boat” with the government waiting until after the summer holidays for the latest easing of travel rules.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps announced on Friday (September 17) that the amber category in the traffic light system will be scrapped from October 4. Also, from 4am on October 4, pre-departure Covid-19 tests will no longer be required for fully-vaccinated travellers arriving into England from non-red list countries.
The budget airline’s chief commercial officer Sophie Dekkers told the House of Commons’ transport select committee on Tuesday (September 21) that her team was surprised and delighted with the announcement as they had not expected the removal of PCR test rules.
But she said there was still “a lot of confusion” about the rules, especially regarding children and non-vaccinated travellers.
“In terms of sales over the weekend, they did pick up but not to the extent that we’ve seen in previous announcements because we’ve missed the summer,” she told the MPs on the committee.
“October half-term is probably the only big opportunity for people in the near term, so although we saw a good uplift in trading and sales over the weekend, we’ve missed the boat unfortunately with the summer holidays.”
Dekkers also said there needs to be clarity about the dates when lateral flow tests will replace PCR tests for day-two testing requirements, as schools have different dates for their half-term holidays and people are uncertain about which tests they will need when they return to England.
And she said the expected cost of about £40 per lateral flow test would still be a barrier for some, adding £120 to the cost of a holiday for a family of four, especially as the average easyJet fare is £50.
She urged the government to remove the need for day-two tests especially before the peak booking season in January.
Her comments were echoed by Colm Lacey, acting chief commercial officer at British Airways, who also said more countries should be taken off the red list and the need for hotel quarantine should be removed, as it was “completely prohibitive”.