The UK travel trade has hailed the return of “hassle-free travel” following the announcement that the remaining Covid travel restrictions – including the Passenger Locator Form and tests for non-vaccinated arrivals – will be “stood down” for UK arrivals from Friday (March 18).
Transport secretary Grant Shapps revealed the news on Monday (March 14), saying it would mean “greater freedom” ahead of the Easter school holidays.
Mark Tanzer, chief executive of Abta, said: “The removal of all remaining Covid travel measures is a watershed moment for the travel industry.
“Travel is finally starting to return to normal and many more people will have the confidence to go ahead and book a long-awaited holiday.
“With destinations around the world also continuing to relax their entry restrictions, international travel is becoming easier as we approach the Easter holidays and look ahead to the summer.”
Julia Lo Bue-Said, chief executive of Advantage Travel Partnership, tweeted: “Finally, after 2 years the removal of last remaining UK covid measures for international travel are going.
“Travellers can once again travel more freely and easily with less hassle. Destination rules will continue, book through a human travel agent for peace of mind.”
Mike Tibbert, president of the Scottish Passenger Agents’ Association (SPAA), said: “Our members can now look forward to building customer confidence without the restrictions hanging over travellers.
“Our sector has been damaged more than most by the pandemic, with support for Scottish agents coming very late in the day. We can now look forward to getting holidaymakers back in the sky and business travellers back in business globally.”
Steve Heapy, chief executive of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, added: “Two years after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, today’s announcement marks international travel finally returning to normal.
“The removal of needless forms and ineffective testing regimes means that customers can at long last enjoy hassle-free travel, just like they did before the pandemic.
“With Easter just around the corner and summer fast approaching, this announcement comes at the perfect time.
“Since restrictions started to be eased at the beginning of the year, we have experienced strong, sustained demand and the complete removal of forms and requirements will boost that demand even further.”
Alistair Rowland, chief executive for Blue Bay Travel and chairman of Abta, hailed the removal of restrictions, as well as announcements by Heathrow and airlines about dropping the face mask rule.
“It finally feels like we can start putting Covid and all the chaos and uncertainty it created behind us. Holidaymakers, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, can look forward to the return of ‘normal’, straightforward travel without worrying that the destination they are visiting will be put on a government red list, at short notice, or they’ll suddenly be required to do a test to get home,” he said.
A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson commented: “The removal of all remaining UK travel restrictions, including the Passenger Locator Form, is the final important step towards frictionless air travel, helping to further restore consumer confidence as we welcome more customers back to the skies this spring and summer.
“With these barriers to travel removed, Britain is open for business and passengers can reconnect with loved ones and business colleagues once again.
“To uphold the experience of all travellers, it’s vital that the UK government works closely with industry to ensure the UK border is ready for increasing passengers, as international travel ramps up.”
The Board of Airline Representatives in the UK (BAR UK) applauded the “pragmatic” move and its chief executive, Dale Keller, said: “This is a truly significant milestone and passengers and airlines will be delighted.
“We urge the UK government to quickly capitalise on the strategic importance of aviation to the whole of society and the UK economy by fully supporting the sector as it invests in rebuilding the country’s vital global connectivity in challenging times.”
Clive Wratten, chief executive of the Business Travel Association (BTA), said axing the PLFs will “oil the wheels of the UK economy”, adding: “It will make business travel more frictionless, stimulating trade and reducing the £2.5 billion a week impact our economy still faces from Covid travel restrictions. Business travel demand is returning, and today’s news is another vital step in that recovery.”
Drew Crawley, American Express Global Business Travel’s chief commercial officer, added: “We can now look forward to an accelerated return of business travel and a more frictionless end-to-end experience for travellers. If we are to be a successful international trading nation in this post-Brexit, post-pandemic era, the government must now be resolutely focused on supporting the travel and aviation sectors.”
Martin Chalk, general secretary of pilots’ union Balpa, welcomed the news, saying: “Balpa pilots look forward to taking Grant Shapps on his next trip and in the mean time, call for the government to publish its recovery plan for the sector urgently.”
Joss Croft, chief executive at UKinbound, commented: “The removal of all UK travel restrictions signals the real beginning of recovery for the country’s tourism industry and will give international consumers the confidence to book a holiday to the UK. From the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee to the Commonwealth Games, there are so many reasons to visit this year.”
Julia Simpson, president chief executive of the World Travel & Tourism Council, said: “Other countries ditched Passenger Locator forms weeks ago, but it is good news the UK government has now scrapped all travel restrictions for coming to the UK.
“If we are to compete on a world stage we need to be ‘open for business’’ and not ask people to fill in lengthy forms.”
Rory Boland, editor of Which? Travel, warned: “Covid still has the potential to disrupt your plans if you fall ill before you are due to travel.
“The best way to safeguard your money is by booking a package holiday, as these come with stronger financial protections, and using accommodation providers or airlines with flexible booking policies.”
Travel Counsellor Emma Savage tweeted: “Hurrah. That pesky PLF form interfering with your last few days on holiday is to be no more!”