The initial green list of countries without quarantine restrictions on travellers returning to the UK is likely to be limited and could exclude most European destinations.
That is according to Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye who told Travel Weekly: “Europe is complicated. I would expect to see individual countries coming on to the green list rather than the whole of the EU.”
He suggested the US “should be top of the list”, insisting: “The US would be a fantastic country to open up quickly. It has high vaccination levels and will soon overtake us. I would hope we could see that in May, possibly June.”
The government has promised to identify countries on the green list under the new traffic light system put forward by the Global Travel Taskforce “in early May” for a possible restart from May 17.
Holland-Kaye said: “We know conversations are happening bilaterally with the US. The countries I hope to see as a minimum would be the US, the Caribbean, Israel, maybe Portugal, the UAE, Singapore, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand.
“They all have low levels of Covid and good levels of vaccination.”
He said “more work needs to be done” to bring EU destinations on to the green list, pointing out: “Each country in Europe has its own vaccination policy and sets its own rules about travel.”
Meanwhile, British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle said there was an “immediate opportunity” to open up US transatlantic routes, given the fast pace of vaccine roll outs in both countries.
However, industry sources downplayed the likelihood of an early US opening. A source involved with the taskforce noted it would require bilateral agreement and said: “The taskforce does not mention bilaterals. The green list is unilateral.”
A second source said: “The US will be a priority, but the US needs to let us in first. There are some discussions, but they need ramping up.”
The source suggested: “Florida is the state there is most concern about, which could be tricky.
“The government could take a regional approach [to the US] but it has been reluctant to do anything on a regional basis.”
The source added: “We’ll see a push for a wish list [and] a push to go to Spain, but it’s difficult regarding the EU.”
Jet2holidays chief executive Steve Heapy told Travel Weekly he feared “glory routes” would be prioritised over summer-sun destinations he believes “ordinary people” want to visit.
Greece has indicated that quarantine restrictions for travellers from the UK, EU, the US and a number of other countries, will be lifted next week ahead of a full reopening on May 14.
Visitors will be allowed access via nine designated airports, including Athens, Kos and Santorini, and two land borders.
“We will gradually lift the restrictions at the beginning of next week ahead of the opening on May 14,” a senior tourism ministry official told Reuters.