Abta chief executive Mark Tanzer has written to prime minister Boris Johnson calling for a testing regime to be in place by the time lockdown ends.

Tanzer urged the government to drop its blanket guidance against all non-essential travel as the country emerges from lockdown and replace it with country-specific advice.

In his letter, which was also addressed to chancellor Rishi Sunak, he also demanded more flexibility in the furlough scheme for companies in the travel sector.

Writing to Abta members today, Tanzer said: “With the constant chopping and changing of FCDO [Foreign Office] travel advice and quarantine restrictions – and testing for travel still in the future – the travel industry has not had any opportunity to recover, and now we find ourselves locked down once again.

“While public health must come first, the measures must also come with the right support to help businesses survive and to protect jobs.”

He added: “Today I am writing to the prime minister and the chancellor to stress the need for flexibility in the furlough scheme. While it was necessary for government to extend the furlough scheme, the same problem still applies to travel businesses – staff will be working to deal with re-bookings and refunds but will not be generating any income. It is important that government acknowledges this and ensures furlough is flexible, and that specific financial support is made available to the travel sector.

“I will also be emphasising to the prime minister, and to other government departments, that it is essential they use this lockdown period to work tirelessly to make sure that travel is ready to restart as soon as lockdown ends. That means lifting the global travel advisory against non-essential travel by moving back to country specific advice, introducing a regional rather than whole-country travel corridor policy, and having a testing regime in place and ready to go.”

Tanzer also clarified Abta’s position on refunds.

“We still need to understand from government how this lockdown will work in practice, this should become clearer once the regulations are published,” he said. “As it stands, customers are entitled to a full refund of the monies they have paid for a package holiday if the FCDO advise against travel to their destination or if the travel services that make up the package are cancelled or significantly altered. It is likely that many customers will find that their flights are cancelled or disrupted as a result of the lockdown.

“Where the package services are still operating as booked, customers should speak to their travel company to discuss what their options are. There are likely to be options to amend travel dates beyond the end of the lockdown period. If no alternatives can be arranged customers might receive a part refund although the travel company would be entitled to retain any costs already incurred that could not be recovered from the travel service suppliers.

“We are advising customers to speak to their travel companies to understand their options, encouraging them to, where possible, rebook for a later date.”