EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren denounced the government’s “confusing” guidance on overseas travel as he reported “a surge” in holiday bookings to amber destinations.
Asked if easyJet is flying people on holiday to amber countries against government advice, Lundgren said: “Yes. People are booking flights and going there on holiday.”
The easyJet chief insisted: “A lot of people have a holiday break as a top priority and that is what they are doing, going to amber countries.
“People are saying ‘We’re fully able to go away and we need a break’. People should be able to travel free from guilt.”
Lundgren hit out at the government’s interpretation of the traffic light system, saying: “It’s very confusing. The point of the restrictions is that it should be safe to travel.
“The government assigned the Global Travel Taskforce to look at how international travel could restart and decided to categorise countries by different risk levels with different levels of restrictions. There was no suggestion than that you could not travel.
“Now a number of countries are on the amber list that should be on the green list. If it is not safe to travel, shouldn’t a destination be red?”
Instead, he said: “Green does not mean green [for go without restrictions], and amber sometimes means you can travel and sometimes means red.”
Lundgren said easyJet had seen “no significant difference in levels of demand to amber destinations based on Foreign Office (FCDO) advice”.
However, he added: “It’s early days – we have to see.”
The FCDO advises against non-essential travel to most amber destinations, including most of Europe bar Portugal. But it does not advise against travel to the Canary Islands or to the Greek islands of Crete, Corfu, Rhodes, Kos and Zakynthos despite these being on the amber list.
Lundgren insisted: “Travel to a lot of these destinations is safe. Greece and Spain could be safely added to the green list. We’re urging the government to do that.
“We can see that in Europe, the UK is falling behind. We urge the government to look at the data again and follow the system they set up.”
He argued: “There has been a range of statements from the government and it makes it confusing for people. If the government does not want people to travel to a country it should be red. Travellers are almost being denounced. It goes completely against what the data shows.
“The confusing part is there is a difference with the amber countries. You are not advised against travel to the Greek islands but the restrictions are the same [as for other amber destinations]. That adds to the confusion.”
He dismissed the government’s claim that the system “has been clear from day one”, saying: “That is not true. That has been added afterwards.”
Lundgren noted: “Many countries are allowing restriction-free travel for people who have received the vaccine to countries that are considered low risk. This is happening as we speak.
“The UK government is taking a much more cautious approach. We urge the government to look again. Many destinations on the amber list could move to green.”
Lundgren reported a headline loss of £701 million for the six months to March following an 89% drop year on year in EasyJet passenger numbers.
The carrier operated just 14% of its 2019 capacity in the six months and expects to operate just 15% in the three months to June.
Lundgren gave no indication of the capacity easyJet would operate during July to September, but said the carrier was ready to ramp up to operating 90% of its fleet if needed.
He argued: “We see a surge in bookings in Europe [and] we’re looking to maximise our opportunities for growth.”
Lundgren added: “Pricing will be dynamic. There will be some very attractive prices out there. But there is also a big amount of demand. We provide more seats to green countries from the UK than any other operator. We expect pricing to continue to be dynamic.”