The boss of Jet2holidays has said he plans to organise a “super group” of tour operators, airlines and trade bodies to lobby the government to be more transparent about its traffic light criteria.
Speaking to Travel Weekly after yesterday’s changes, which include Portugal moving from green to amber next week and seven countries moving to the red list, Heapy described his reaction as “devastated”, “angry” and “confused”
He said the situation was “soul-destroying for everybody in the industry”, adding: “The government said it would provide a clear framework for emerging out of lockdown and getting going again – and it sounded reasonably sensible – and it’s just thrown that out of the window.”
Heapy queried the failure from government to introduce a promised ‘green watchlist’ of destinations that were at risk of being moved to amber and compared the handling of the traffic light system to Corporal Jones in Dad’s Army, “running around panicking”.
The decision made him question the government’s overall policy on international travel.
“Is it now the government’s policy that if there’s a rise in infection rates we lock down again? If that’s the case, then I just can’t see what’s going to happen in the future. There will be a rise in infection rates, there will be new variants.”
Heapy said the government had “accepted” rates of flu “for decades” adding: “I don’t know the government’s policy for Covid, but they need to tell us.
“Are they going for zero infections and zero deaths? Because if they are then that, in my opinion, is unachievable.”
He said destinations like Malta and the Balearic and Canary Islands had infection rates that were “much better or similar to the UK”. “It seems like any prevalence of new variants around the globe will cause the government to lock down.”
He urged prime minister Boris Johnson to “get behind your desk and run the country” and suggested chief scientific advisor Patrick Vallance and chief medical officer Chris Whitty were effectively “running the country”.
Speaking to Jet2holidays’ travel agent partners, he said: “Please be assured we will be working as hard as we can for the whole industry.
“There’s three big industry bodies in the UK and I would call for them all to come together. That’s Abta, Airlines UK, and the Airport Operators Association. Those three all have interests that are perfectly aligned and we should come together and lobby the government very hard and try and make them understand what the consequences of the decisions are.
“Now, that’s not to say that we completely ignorant of the consequences of opening up too early or to too many places. But I think the government owes it to us to explain what their policy is.”
He added: “We will lobby, the government, MPs, ministers, opposition, anybody we can. When I finish this call, I’ll be contacting Airlines UK and seeing if we can get Abta and the Airport Operators Association aligned and, you know, a super group and go and descend on the people who are the decision makers and try and find out what’s going on.”
Heapy also encouraged “everybody in the travel industry” to get in touch with their MPs to ask for transparency about the Covid policy for international travel.
“We will be lobbying very hard,” he said. “If I have to I’ll get a train down to London , doorstep these people and find out what’s going on. At the moment the government has abrogated responsibility to the scientists.”