The scrapping of UK’s traffic light system for international travel has been described as a “welcome step” by ADS and pilots’ association BALPA.
The simplification of the rules, saw the scrapping of the “traffic light system” to be replaced with a single “red list.” A simplified testing regime for double-jabbed travellers was also revealed for travellers from ‘safe’ countries no longer forced to take tests before their return to the UK. From late October, travellers will only be required to take a lateral flow test on their second day back in the UK rather than a PCR test. Travel firms, such as Skyscanner, have already reporting a surge in bookings. The company reported a 103 per cent week-on-week increase in bookings on Friday, when Transport Secretary Grant Shapps revealed the changes.
Commenting on changes to the UK rules for international travel, ADS Chief Executive Kevin Craven said: “Simpler travel lists and a switch to lower cost testing for most travellers in future are welcome steps that build on the success of vaccination programmes here and overseas.
“While numbers of flights in Europe have recovered to less than 30 per cent below pre-crisis levels, in the UK we have experienced a slower aviation recovery to date. These changes will help to support a full recovery that will benefit the travel sector, the UK’s high value aerospace industry and our whole economy.”
“Removing the shackles”
The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) called the move the ‘first step to removing the shackles that have constrained aviation.’ BALPA said it was pleased the Government has listened to its calls to simplify the traffic light system and remove some of the barriers to international travel. It also called on Ministers to help rebuild public confidence in what it described as “a phenomenally safe mode of travel.”
The pilots’ union says the announcement will help open up travel but has highlighted the specific challenges that UK aviation still faces after a difficult summer under Government restrictions.
BALPA quoted figures which showed UK aviation is still lagging behind European competitors when it comes to recovery from the crisis. Gatwick Airport tops the list of worst affected airports in Europe and Heathrow Airport reported August passenger numbers were down 71 per cent on 2019.
The pilots’ association is calling for investment from the Government to help the sector through the continuing effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Industry remains “precariously placed”
BALPA Acting General Secretary Martin Chalk said: “We welcome the changes, that we called for multiple times, as a first step to removing the shackles that have constrained aviation this summer. But there is still a way to go before UK aviation can truly take-off again and the industry remains precariously placed after a dire summer season.”
“Gatwick still tops the list of airports in Europe worst affected by the crisis and our airlines are in a comparatively poor place compared to international competitors.”
“With furlough ending it is going to be hard for cash strapped airlines to get back up and running as demand returns. That’s why aviation still needs bespoke investment from the Government. We must ensure pilots have the appropriate training and are available to ramp up as demand returns.
“Aviation is only just emerging from lockdown. We need to be ready to make the most of the increased interest in international travel, to build back to being a world leading industry and help drive the UK’s economic recovery.”