Airline and travel firm shares have risen after news that the UK could allow fully vaccinated holidaymakers to visit amber list countries without having to quarantine.
Under the current system, travellers must quarantine for 10 days and have a total of three Covid tests when returning from countries including all major European holiday destinations.
News that ministers are considering relaxing the rules for double-jabbed travellers boosted shares in airlines including easyJet, Ryanair, and British Airways’ parent group IAG by between 3 and 4.8% in early trading.
The market value of Europe’s biggest travel firm, Tui, increased by 3.3% while the UK airline and holiday firm Jet2’s share price rose 4.3%.
The news emerged as Ryanair and Britain’s biggest airport group, Manchester Airports Group, launched legal action against the government to force more transparency in how the traffic-light system for international travel is decided.
Ryanair’s chief executive, Michael O’Leary, described the traffic-light system as “a complete shambles” and said the “go-stop-go-stop policy is causing untold damage to the aviation industry and frustrating and upsetting millions of British families”.
Although the industry initially welcomed the concept, in consultation with the government’s travel taskforce, the decision to only include a handful of countries on the green list – allowing quarantine-free travel – and then suddenly remove Portugal, the only major holiday destination, left the aviation and travel sector facing another summer of huge losses.
The travel association ABTA urged the government to relax the rules for vaccinated travellers and provide dedicated financial support to struggling travel businesses, as it warned almost 200,000 UK jobs in the sector were lost or at risk.
Analysis by ABTA found 195,000 of the 526,000 people normally employed in the sector had either lost their jobs or were on the brink of redundancy, with more than half of small businesses saying they could not survive another three months without trading.
Mark Tanzer, ABTA’s chief executive, said: “Unless the government’s strategic review of international travel on 28 June brings forth a sensible plan for travel to reopen for the summer and targeted support that recognises the catastrophic economic hit that the sector has taken, the industry will truly begin to buckle before the summer is over.”
Details have yet to emerge of how ministers are considering to tweak the rules for vaccinated travellers, and how the system would work, particularly for family groups. One possibility would be to follow the model proposed by France to welcome vaccinated UK travellers, whereby children accompanied by vaccinated adults would be permitted to enter so long as they produced a negative antigen test.
EasyJet meanwhile announced it would add 12 new routes and 60,000 more seats to its domestic network, with most UK citizens expecting to holiday at home this summer. It will start operations from Belfast to Gatwick and also reopen at Leeds Bradford and East Midlands to cover routes previously served by Stobart Air, the regional airline that collapsed on Saturday.