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UK travel industry questions government’s new plan for air travel


New research by the Airport Operators Association (AOA) and ABTA – The Travel Association have questioned the UK government’s new traffic light system for the resumption of international air travel from England.

They warn that the cost of PCR testing for international travel in the UK is double that of testing in other European countries.

And with a PCR test now required on Day 2 after returning to the UK from even the lowest-risk countries, the research highlights the disproportionate cost of PCR testing for travellers.

A UK pre-departure PCR test costs on average £128 per person, while the average pre-departure test cost across eight key destinations only comes to just under £62 – less than half the UK price level for a similar PCR test.

They warn that individuals travelling from the UK to a European destination would pay an average of £306 for testing as they will need a UK pre-departure test, a pre-departure test in their destination country at the end of their holiday and a post-arrival test in the UK if they have flown to a green country under the new traffic light system announced today.

ABTA and AOA have also said the government should look at whether people who have been vaccinated can be exempt from testing when travelling to green list countries.

AOA chief executive, Karen Dee, said: “The cost of testing could act as a significant barrier to the meaningful restart to aviation and should not be underestimated.

“With UK pre-departure and post-arrival tests costing around double the average in countries like Spain, Italy, Portugal and Greece, UK travellers are penalised for wanting to travel from the UK.

“With the government offering free rapid tests domestically, it is vital that business travellers and holidaymakers can make use of these for green-listed countries upon their return. The government should also work to reduce, if not eliminate, the cost for pre-departure tests in the UK.

“Without a cost-effective solution like this, a summer holiday will be out of reach for many and damage an already badly hit aviation and travel industry even further.”

While ABTA chief executive, Mark Tanzer, noted: “The restart of international travel needs to be affordable and accessible for everyone – so that people can take their much-needed overseas holidays and visit the family and friends abroad whom they’ve not been able to see for such a long time.

“Travel to the lower risk, green categorised countries should be as unrestricted as possible. The requirement for a PCR test when you arrive back from a green list country could prove a cost-barrier for many people – we welcome the fact that the government commits to engaging with industry on this issue.

“Small changes, like requiring a PCR test only if the individual gets a positive result from a lateral flow test, would make international travel more accessible and affordable whilst still providing an effective mitigation against re-importation of the virus.

“The government should also consider whether those who have been vaccinated can be exempt from testing requirements, should scientific evidence suggest reduced transmissibility.”

They are backed by the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA), which claims that “aviation will remain on its knees” with government’s overly-cautious travel plan.

BALPA general secretary, Brian Strutton, said: “This plan will keep the aviation industry on its knees. Ministers have said that the best form of support would be to get Britain flying again this summer. Today’s announcement simply won’t do that.

“The British public – more than half of whom have now received a vaccine – will not feel confident to book holidays without knowing whether they’ll be forced into quarantine on their return.

“And even for countries on the Green list travellers will need to take a PCR test at £100 per person, which is not sustainable.

“It is clear that under this plan airlines are not going to be able to recover during this summer season and will have to wait for summer 2022 for significant leisure travel to resume.

“Given that, I will be writing to the Chancellor today to once again make the case for significant economic support. Air travel is too important to the economy and to the hundreds of thousands of people whose livelihoods rely on it to be left to whither.”


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