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UK ‘being left behind’ by restrictions, warns easyJet chief

The UK has been left behind by the re-opening of international travel in Europe, easyJet chief Johan Lundgren warned as he reported capacity and bookings “heavily skewed” towards the continent.

Lundgren hit out the government’s continuing lack of transparency on the data behind decisions. However, he downplayed the impact of the latest policy reversals on France and the Balearics as he welcomed the UK relaxation for fully-vaccinated passengers.

The easyJet boss said: “The UK is being left behind. The rest of Europe is opening up.

“The government looks like it has a different lens, a different approach to opening up travel from opening up domestically.

“We welcome the opening up to vaccinated passengers. It goes in the right direction. But the next step should be to move many more destinations into the green category, and green should mean green – you can go.”

Yet the government decision to impose quarantine restrictions on vaccinated passengers returning from France has had little impact on easyJet, said Lundgren.

He explained: “Our traffic flow between the UK and France is not significant and we didn’t see any major changes.

“We’re critical of the government because it is not providing transparent data. It isn’t clear why this new category is in place.”

Lundgren also downplayed the impact of the decision to move the Balearics back to amber from this week. He said: “We saw huge demand when the Balearics moved to green. We haven’t seen any big change in demand since [the latest decision].”

He noted: “The government saying when you’re vaccinated you can travel had a huge impact. We have no doubt UK demand will follow the trend elsewhere. There is huge pent-up demand.”

Speaking as easyJet announced results for the three months to June, Lundgren reported about two-thirds of the carrier’s current bookings are from outside the UK compared to about half pre-pandemic.

He said: “We moved some capacity to Scandinavia and to Berlin. This is all down to clarity and confidence around booking restrictions.”

But he suggested the current tilt in easyJet’s operations away from the UK to EU source markets would be temporary and not last the summer, saying: “It just reflects where we stand today. This can change on a daily basis.”

The easyJet chief likewise downplayed fears of lengthy queues at UK airports for returning passengers as volumes increase, saying: “We make the checks prior to boarding. We have a fantastic on-time performance.”

Asked what impact the EU introduction of a Digital Covid Certificate on July 1 has had, Lundgren said: “We see the Digital Covid Certificate working but there are variations. We’re calling for a common approach.”

EasyJet reported a loss of £318 million for the April-June quarter, when it operated just 17% of its 2019 capacity although this rose to 23% in June.

It expects to operate up to 60% of its summer 2019 capacity over the three months to September and reported almost half (49%) booked for the quarter compared with 65% in 2019. UK capacity was 44% sold and intra-EU 53%.

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