No one would wish to see a further lockdown in the UK. However, with a ‘green list’ of only 12 countries and territories being published, the latest announcement from the Transport Minister fails to give the hope to the aviation sector that it so desperately needs.
The list under the traffic light system will be under review, with the possibility of countries being added to the green list, and possibly some of those current 12 being removed. The green list may provide opportunity for business travel, and travel for those who have not seen family, but the lack of common holiday destinations on the current green list will likely deter people from booking a holiday. It also assumes that those countries or territories on the green list going forward will accept UK visitors. Many summer holiday destinations feature of the ‘amber list’. With the possibility of not knowing where those countries will be during, for example, the school summer holiday period, many may choose not to book for the time being. This will place operators in a further precarious position.
If any of usual holiday destinations (for example Spain or France) go on to the green list for summer, some will likely be ‘priced out’ of their holiday. That is said with some degree of speculation, as looking at the same holiday to Portugal (currently green list) from summer 2020 to summer 2021, the cost has only marginally increased at the time of writing. There is the added issue that some will have already opted for a staycation this summer, which due to supply and demand has resulted in prices escalating to the cost of a foreign holiday. It is increasingly looking like a trip abroad will be for the few, rather than the many this year.
The cost of PCR testing also seems to vary wildly, and a valid test and certificate will be required for future travel. TUI have already announced that they are offering a testing package for travelers at a greatly reduced cost (https://www.which.co.uk/news/2021/05/where-can-i-get-a-covid-19-pcr-or-antigen-private-test-to-go-on-holiday/ ) . Other operators are also likely to offer an incentive to travelers.
Following Friday’s announcement, we had hoped that we would be writing something more positive. Given the mandate of the Global Travel Taskforce, the aviation sector expected more from government. Every flight that leaves the UK means a pilot can do their job. Every announcement, however tentative, that allows for some degree of travel increases the chances of our members staying in the profession that they love. As the skies gradually re-open, there may also be opportunities for those who lost their jobs to return to flying.
17th May 2021 marks the restart of the travel sector for leisure purposes, albeit in a very limited way. Whilst frequent review of the system is welcomed, the risk of countries moving between lists during peak holiday season is likely to stifle sector recovery.