The government’s Global Travel Taskforce should aim at enabling safe international travel “without restrictions” and work back from that goal, easyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren has told Travel Weekly.
Lundgren defended the taskforce against criticism from some in the industry, insisting: “There needs to be a format and it’s almost impossible to satisfy everyone. It’s fair enough how it’s constituted. They are going to take all the advice they can from the industry and make informed decisions based also on the medical expertise.
“The success of the taskforce will depend on what comes out of it. That is when we judge whether it has worked.”
He insisted the May 17 date set by the government for the earliest restart of travel could be met, but added: “If it’s delayed by some weeks that is not a big deal.”
Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, Lundgren said: “The intention is May 17. We want to make sure the taskforce recommendations are such that travel can take place from May 17. That is what the prime minister said and that is what we need to work for.”
He warned: “We need to be conscious of the fact there will be restrictions in place depending on the destination.”
But he added: “Ultimately, the goal is to be able to fly safely without any restrictions.
“Remember, it’s all about the virus, the spread of it, the pressure on health systems, the mutations and variants, and the vaccine efficacy on those mutations. If other countries get to the same speed and efficiency of vaccination programme as the UK and the vaccines are effective against any type of mutation, there should be little or no restrictions on travel.”
Lundgren said: “This huge knowledge now exists that wasn’t there last summer – the data on prevalence, the rate of infection, the different strains and mutations, the vaccination programme, the countries on the red list, the amber list, the green list, and we have testing and discussion about certification for vaccination.
“A whole set of tools and knowledge is available to make sure we can unwind measures in a safe way.
“If rates come down, it comes back to different governments’ points of view and whether they adopt a zero‑Covid approach or, as the prime minister indicated, they look to the fact that this virus will be around and we’ll live with and manage it.”
He said easyJet “can scale up” to meet demand “with relatively short notice”, insisting: “For every day that goes by, pent-up demand increases. If we get a clear set of recommendations approved, there will be time to have a meaningful programme for summer.”
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