Amber List Travel Is Legal, Says EasyJet Boss

Travel to amber list countries is “absolutely legal”, EasyJet boss Johan Lundgren has said, after the government advised people not to go to those countries on holiday.

Mr Lundgren said the government stance was “very confusing” and frustrating for passengers, and testing was costly.

However, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps denied that the government was sending mixed messages about travel.

The legal ban on foreign holidays ended on Monday.

The government has brought in a traffic light system of rules for international travel, with people returning from green list countries not having to quarantine.

But travellers returning from amber list countries, which may have entry restrictions, must self isolate for 10 days when they return.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said people should not holiday in amber list countries.

Coronavirus restrictions on travel have hit the aviation sector very hard over the course of the pandemic.

On Thursday, EasyJet reported that losses for the six months to 31 March had widened to £645m from £353m a year earlier.

Mr Lundgren told the BBC this was “clearly a significant loss, and it’s really down to the travel restrictions we’ve seen across Europe”.

The airline plans to fly only about 15% of its pre-pandemic capacity during the three months to the end of June, but said it was “ready to significantly ramp up our flying for the summer”

Mr Lundgren called for an extension of the green list to include more European countries.

He added the whole point of the traffic light system was to allow travel to restart again safely, and that it was “absolutely legal to travel to amber list countries”.

“There was no indication they [passengers] shouldn’t travel to these countries, because that’s what the restriction was supposed to do – it was there to make sure you could do this in a safe way,” he said.

“We have a huge amount of people that are contacting us to say: ‘Look, can I go? Can’t I go?’ – So it’s been very confusing, and the government is almost dismantling the system that it set up themselves,” he added.

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According to Johan Lundgren, by discouraging leisure travel to amber list countries, the government is undermining its own policy.

As he pointed out, going to an amber list country is not illegal – even for a holiday. But the government says you shouldn’t do it. Passengers, he says, are confused.

The whole idea of having a traffic light system, he suggested, was to have different levels of restrictions for different risks.

The underlying message: why bother having a graded system if you’d rather people didn’t travel at all?

While an airline chief executive calling for travel restrictions to be eased is hardly a shock, his comments on the amber list will add to the pressure the government is under, over what critics claim is an incoherent or contradictory approach.

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Easyjet planes

Mr Lundgren also called for VAT to be removed from the cost of Covid testing when holidaymakers return to the UK.

He said the numerous costs and testing was making people who want to go on holiday or reunite with families “extremely frustrated”.

He added the airline had agreed a £60 price for the required PCR tests, but pointed to comments from the European Parliament which has called for free testing for all, including PCR tests.

Green list push

Grant Shapps said that the government was not sending mixed messages about travel.

He said all countries by default start on the amber list, and are put on the green list if they have low coronavirus incidences and are tracking how the disease mutates. They go on the red list if the government has “great concerns”.

“The amber list and the red list are not for holidaymakers,” Mr Shapps said, adding that after a year of lockdowns the government does not want to take risks.

Nevertheless, he is pushing for the number of green list countries to be extended.

“We’ve ended up getting way ahead in terms of our vaccination programme in this country, and we’re just having to wait for other countries to catch up,” he said. “And that’s going to gradually happen, and so that list should expand.”

There are only very few countries at the moment on the green list.

People can travel to amber list countries in “extreme circumstances”, Mr Shapps said, “perhaps because they have a sick family member”.

However, he urged people to be patient, and to wait for other countries to be put on the green list before holidaying.

On Tuesday, Boris Johnson said people should not be holidaying in amber list countries, after Environment Secretary George Eustice had said people could go and visit friends.

Mr Johnson said: “I think it’s very important for people to grasp what an amber list country is: it is not somewhere where you should be going on holiday, let me be very clear about that.”



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