Leaders of Europe’s major airlines slammed the UK’s traffic light system as a “shambles” today and accused the government of “making it up as they go along”.
EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren and Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary hit out at the government at an Airlines for Europe (A4E) summit as they called for a coordinated resumption of travel from July 1.
Lundgren said: “We are clearly into the recovery phase. Now is the time to restore European travel with the success of the vaccination programmes.
“The important thing is governments look at the data. The UK government is not doing that. They are making it up as they go along. The UK is isolating itself from the rest of the world.”
Lundgren said: “Credit to the number of states that have endorsed a framework with transparency. The UK stands out perversely with the highest vaccination rate and a traffic light system not backed up by the data.”
O’Leary agreed, criticising “the shambles of the UK putting Portugal on the green list, then taking it off”.
He pointed out: “Case numbers are rising in the UK, but fatalities and hospitalisations have not and that is the effect of the vaccines.”
O’Leary insisted: “Vaccines now allow us to restore travel without restrictions [for those vaccinated] no later than July 1 – 70% of the EU population is on track to receive a first dose of the vaccine by the end of June.
“Member states must start lifting restrictions, particularly on intra-EU travel. We also want the re-establishment of non-essential travel beyond the EU. A good start would be to re-establish links between the EU and US.”
He said coordination around Europe “is not happening yet, but we’re impressed with the fact that governments have started to issue Covid certificates.
“We need a date, and that seems to be July 1, certainly for vaccinated passengers.
“It is more complicated to issue a certificate for people who’ve had a test or had Covid and recovered. But that is no reason not to allow those who are vaccinated to travel from July 1 both intra-EU and UK-EU.”
Air France-KLM chief executive Ben Smith agreed: “The technology is there. If you are vaccinated there is no reason why free and easy movement should not be in place.”
IAG chief executive Luis Gallego suggested the G7 Summit in Cornwall from June 11 presents “an opportunity to chart a path to recovery”, saying: “When you look at the vaccination numbers in the UK and US it makes no sense to have this corridor closed.”
However, the airline bosses insisted the system of Covid certificates and testing to get travel restarted this summer should be temporary.
Lundgren said: “The objective has to be safe travel without restrictions. The EU Covid Certificate is a way to do it for this summer. But we can’t make this the new normal. Tests and certificates can’t be here for the long term.”