The United Kingdom’s flagship carrier British Airways — along with Heathrow Airport — joined forces on Monday in asking the UK government to open up more routes for international travel and add more countries to its Green List category.
In addition, the officials at both BA and Heathrow urged the government to simplify the procedures that are currently in place in order to travel internationally.
As of today there is no blanket ban on international travel but so far, the UK has listed only twelve nations — many of them tiny island states — that it deems safe for Britons to travel to at this point.
Portugal only European country on “Green List”
The guidelines it issued last week stipulate that the only European country on its coveted “Green List,” for which there is no quarantine needed upon return, is Portugal.
Greece, along with many other nations, is in the “Orange List,” denoting that there would need to be a seven-day quarantine upon arrival back in the UK for any British travelers after visiting there.
The very unwelcome move came after Greece had embarked on a very successful campaign to inoculate all island residents with populations under 10,000 and a second campaign, announced last week, of inoculating all residents of all Greek islands — irrespective of the age of the resident or the population of the island.
The Greek islands are particular magnets for British, German and other foreign tourists when they visit Greece.
British Airways Chief Executive Sean Doyle said at a joint press conference “What’s crucial is that travel becomes easier for people.”
He said that the government must relax some of its measures in order for the public to be able to engage in any meaningful travel this summer — and for airline companies to be able to survive after an entire year of pandemic-related restrictions.
On Friday, Prime Ministers Boris Johnson stated that the travel list, which employs a “traffic light” system of green, orange and red countries according to whether or not quarantines are required after return, will not be changed soon due to the risk of new virus variants.
Ministers have flatly said that people should not go on vacation to countries which are not included on the green list. The list is set to be revisited every three weeks.
Heathrow officials stated that said the limited reopening of international tourism in the UK allowed a total of 11,000 people to fly out on Monday; this represents a meaningful increase over the 7,000 who flew per day last week.
However, it is a paltry number compared with the usual 120,000 air passengers who normally flew each day in pre-pandemic times.
British Airways acknowledged that it was able to operate barely a fraction of the 200 flights every day that used to leave British airspace for sunnier climes during previous years.
Both the BA officials and those from Heathrow urged the UK government to add Greece, Spain, the United States, the Caribbean, and France, onto its list of “Green Light” countries before the summer comes.
Heathrow’s Chief Executive John Holland-Kaye stated to the press on Monday “We are calling on the government to help people to plan ahead by publishing a list of countries expected to be on the green list for the summer.” This, he hopes, will allow prospective travelers to make firm plans for much-needed summer vacations.
The officials added that they believe those who have been fully vaccinated should not need to be quarantined at all, nor even have to undergo a Covid-19 test upon return if they are coming from a country with a low coronavirus risk.
They also stated that a cheaper “lateral flow test” should be sufficient for all those travelers who are not vaccinated yet.
Currently, the many Covid-19 tests that travelers are asked to undergo add up to more than the cost of a flight for some travelers. The patchwork of requirement also poses a problem for those who are trying to plot out their vacations as they try to maneuver through all the different regulations for each country.
However, some travelers who were Abel to leave the country for vacations expressed great relief at the lifting of some travel requirements after the stringent lockdown lasting four and a half months.
Reuters interviewed Erica Stolton, 29, who was traveling to Madrid, Spain, to show her baby to her family for the first time ever. She said effusively, “It feels absolutely magical. It’s been really hard, the situation with this pandemic.”
However, there was bitter disappointment for another British traveler, who had pinned her hopes on flying off to the cosmopolitan island of Mykonos, Greece.
Supposed Mykonos traveler bitterly disappointed
Jane Sunley, 60, found that she was unable to go to Greece after she was told that she had not filled in her PLF 24 hours before departure — as it states in the regulations must be done.
She was turned away from the gate after airport officials discovered the oversight.
“We’ll lose our flights, we’ll lose our hotel, there’s not another flight until Friday,” she complained to reporters. “It’s not simple, is it?”
Although the Traffic light system regarding quarantines and testing for the various regions of the world was said to be reviewable at the end of every three weeks, PM Boris Johnson stated last Friday that due to a rise in the variants which have spread over the world, the new guidelines would be in place for the foreseeable future.
Because of its hugely successful vaccine rollout after notching the highest death rate in the world per capita in all industrialized countries, the UK now is enjoying very low infection rates.
However, the nation of India poses a problem for world travelers since a variant identified there has recently spread almost unabated in the nation of 1,380,004,385 people.
On May 8, Greeks received the grim news that their country was indeed not included on the United Kingdom’s “Green List” of countries to which travelers would not have to quarantine upon arrival back on UK soil.
The news was very unwelcome although not entirely unexpected, as UK officials had intimated earlier that Greece may not be included on the list but could be part of the “Amber,” or “Orange,” list, for which travelers would still have to quarantine upon arrival back home.
The list will be reviewed every three weeks, and Greek tourism officials will have to pin their hopes on inclusion at the end of the month of May.
Greek tourism officials have invested a great deal of time and effort in assuring the public that the Greek islands — which are an enormous draw for both British and German travelers, among many ohters — would be free of the virus.