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Airline bosses want return to ‘travel as it was’ by January

Industry leaders are urging the government to remove day two Covid tests for vaccinated arrivals and simplify the Passenger Locator Form (PLF) at the next review of international travel policy in January.

Iata UK country manager Simon McNamara told the Airlines 2021 conference in London: “We want to return to travel as it was and that is going to be a challenge. Traffic is back to about 50% in Europe, [but] this crisis is not over. There is a long way to go.”

Airlines UK chief executive Tim Alderslade declared “next spring and summer will be critical” and insisted the January review “has to get rid of the day two test for fully vaccinated passengers”.

Amid tightening restrictions in Europe, he argued: “We see what is happening [but] Europe and the US were faster in removing restrictions for the fully vaccinated. In effect, we lost a summer. The January review should clear up some of the remaining restrictions.”

Dale Keller, chief executive of the UK Board of Airline Representatives, warned: “There is a sense of urgency. We need a lot of strategic decisions. For example, is the PLF being used to locate people or as a health declaration?”

McNamara agreed: “The PLF is a nightmare. Why are we asking all these questions? We have to get back to simplicity and pragmatism. That has to be an objective in January.”

Department for Transport director for aviation Dr Rannia Leontaridi told the conference: “We simplified some measures at the border and we hope pretty soon to simplify them further. This winter will be a lot easier. People arriving at our borders think ‘No one is checking our documents’, but everything is happening behind the scenes.”

However, Wizz Air UK managing director Marion Geoffroy said: “The PLF is not easy and you still need to be tested. It discourages a lot of travellers.”

EasyJet chief commercial officer Sophie Dekkers agreed, saying: “We see a difference in markets with and without testing. It feels we’re lagging. Demand flinches with every government announcement. January is the major period for booking summer travel. It’s incredibly complicated and that needs to change.”

However, Dekkers also noted other countries continue to change requirements suggesting “in Switzerland, you now need to pay to have your UK vaccination certificate translated”, and Civil Aviation Authority chief executive Richard Moriarty pointed out: “In Germany and Austria there is a seizure in bookings.”

The government confirmed the addition to the NHS Covid Pass of a Covid-19 booster certificate from Friday of last week after Travel Weekly reported “an update of the NHS Covid Pass to provide proof of booster jabs is imminent, but the definition of fully vaccinated in Britain won’t change” (November 18).

No countries were added to the government’s red list following the latest review, also last week.

The moves came as the latest wave of infection around Europe led to tightening restrictions and in Austria to a new lockdown. Pan-European industry groups urged governments to adopt “a common approach” as measures across Europe continue to diverge.

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