Industry hopes for the summer are diverging between those still seeking a restart by August and those writing off the peak season.
Boris Johnson confirmed a delay to July 19 in easing domestic restrictions on Monday while ruling out additional support for businesses such as extending furlough, saying: “We don’t think we’ll need to change that.”
The next green-amber-red list review is due next week followed by a first review of the traffic light system on June 28. An industry source warned: “We shouldn’t fool ourselves about next week’s review [despite] a lot of countries meeting the green list criteria.
“Two things are deeply concerning. One is that the government will further undermine the credibility of the traffic light system if it says ‘There won’t be any change until July 19’. Then July 19 will be the next review [and] even if they let the domestic economy relax, there could be no holidays abroad.
“Second is the Delta variant and what the rest of Europe does. By the time we restart, a lot of places could be restricting us.”
The Netherlands introduced mandatory quarantine for UK arrivals from Tuesday, Italy was considering the same and Germany and France already have restrictions on UK arrivals.
However, an airline source said: “The domestic announcement is no reason they can’t bring some clarity even if implementation has to wait to a later date, say July 19. The next review at the end of July is too late.
“There is a lot the government could announce on June 28 that aligns with the domestic reopening. We need a rethink of amber and removal of the ‘You should not travel’ message. We have to reduce the number of tests and the length of quarantine. We also need to recognise vaccinated passengers. That could be announced at the next review. It’s purely a policy decision. We don’t see why they have to wait.”
One piece of good news is in prospect with an announcement expected next week that Covid test results in England and Wales can be added to the NHS App, which already displays vaccination status.
However, the industry source dismissed hopes of a rapid move to recognise vaccination certificates at the UK border, saying: “We don’t think there is any prospect of that soon because the government is so worried about variants.”
Transport secretary Grant Shapps warned a travel restart could “screw up” the UK recovery last week, insisting “we need to open cautiously” despite the EC committing to a July 1 resumption of travel. Justice commissioner Didier Reynders suggested the EU Digital Covid Certificate means “we’re equipped now to have a good season”.
Hopes of a relaxation of UK-US travel restrictions took a sideways step when Johnson and President Joe Biden agreed to a taskforce “to open up travel between the UK and US”. One source said: “It’s more a delaying tactic than a strategy for restarting.” A second noted: “There doesn’t seem a lot of urgency.”