It’s time to get Britain flying again, say aviation, travel and tourism CEOs in new letter to the PM

May 26th, 2021

It’s time to get Britain flying again, say aviation, travel and tourism CEOs in new letter to the PM

  • Travel leaders urge the Prime Minister to follow the science and the Government’s stated policy having moved the goal posts in recent weeks
  • CEO’s warn that the UK is already falling behind the rest of the world and risks throwing away its ‘vaccine dividend’
  • The industry is highlighting that safe travel is possible and an urgent expansion to the international travel Green list is justified including to many European countries, the US and Caribbean, whilst maintaining a robust Red list safety net

CEOs from the UK’s leading aviation, travel and tourism businesses have united to express their concern and frustration at recent comments from Ministers that people should ‘stay in this country’ this summer, in a letter to the Prime Minister in which they call on him to clarify the UK Government’s position on restarting international travel and add many more countries to the Green list.

Travel leaders reiterate their support for the traffic light system and the Red list as a necessary safeguard against the risk of Variants of Concern entering the country. However, the success of the UK’s vaccine rollout and the effectiveness of vaccines in protecting against all known variants, including the Indian variant, supports an expansion of the Green list to low-risk countries now, many of which also have significant levels of vaccinations, rapidly decreasing case numbers and, according to test and trace data, often considerably less than 1% of arrivals testing positive with no identified Variants of Concern entering the country.

CEO’s warn that the UK is already falling behind the rest of the world and risks throwing away its ‘vaccine dividend’, with long term consequences for Global Britain, and that the best way to support this crucial industry is to enable safe travel to resume at scale.

The industry is calling urgently for the Government to make international travel easier this summer by acting on the science and by implementing the following policies and measures:

  • Recognise that many countries are low-risk for travel and add them to the Green list and re-introduce the Islands Policy
  • Recognition of vaccination status so that vaccinated passengers do not need to take a test or self-isolate if travelling from Green or Amber countries
  • Move to Green being Green and remove current restrictions
  • Genuinely drive down the cost of testing – this could be done by removing the levying of VAT on PCR tests and reducing the cost of NHS PCR tests to better stimulate the market
  • Remove the guidance that people should not travel to Amber countries

Andrew Flintham, Managing Director for TUI UK and Ireland, commented: “We have worked closely with the Government on the safe reopening of travel and it is clear that the data supports expanding the green list. Getting away on a much needed holiday to key destinations like Spain, Greece, some Caribbean Islands and the US should now be possible because of the excellent vaccination programme in the UK, increased vaccinations in these destinations, low rates of the virus and no evidence of variants of concern. 

“We’re already seeing other European markets open up to travel and welcome back customers, so now is the time for the UK to do the same. We’re a nation of travellers, so it’s time to stop limiting our ability to travel where it’s safe to do so. Whilst we’ve offered outstanding flexibility for customers this summer, what customers really want is to be able to take the holiday they’ve booked and look forward to.”

Steve Heapy, CEO of and Jet2holidays, said: “The UK Government has repeatedly said it will be led by the data, in which case many popular holiday destinations can be added onto the Green List now. Infection and vaccination rates across many of our destinations are improving rapidly, and if you apply what the Government has said, there is no reason why they cannot be safely opened to UK holidaymakers. There is enormous demand for much-needed holidays to the sunshine, and customers want to travel to their favourite destinations like the Balearics, not just to Portugal or a remote island in the South Atlantic. Customers need time to plan their holidays, so we eagerly look forward to positive news in the coming days about where we can fly to.”

Johan Lundgren, CEO of easyJet, commented; “We have always said that vaccination is the key to unlocking travel and so now is the time for the Government to bank the gains from the huge success of the vaccination programme and expand the Green list. The science shows that travel can safely reopen to much of Europe now and most European governments have opened up travel for their citizens with far fewer restrictions and exemptions for fully vaccinated travellers. This means British consumers are not only being left behind but could end up unfairly picking up a bigger bill for their trip. And let’s not forget the wider and longer-term consequences of not opening up – for the country’s connectivity, the aviation industry and UK economy as a whole.  

“Customers want to travel this summer – they value their holidays, want to reunite with loved ones after many months of separation and develop their businesses so I urge the Government to increase the Green list and let the UK take off once again.”

Charlie Cornish, CEO of Manchester Airports Group, owner of Stansted, Manchester and East Midlands airports, said:The Government is holding back international travel despite clear evidence that more countries should be on the green list. The UK’s traffic light system ignores the benefits of our world-leading vaccination programme, which was meant to give Britain a head start and let people visit family and go on holiday this summer. Instead, the Government is actively telling people not to travel to amber list countries despite creating a system that makes it safe for them to do so.

“At the same time, we are requiring millions of people with immunity from Covid-19 to pay for PCR tests to gather data on variants that other governments reliably collect already. With so much at stake, the Government must work transparently and collaboratively with industry to create a simple, fair and sustainable system that will truly get Britain flying again.”

Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines UK, the industry body representing UK-registered carriers, said: “The UK will rapidly fall behind the rest of Europe unless it looks again at its overly cautious approach to international travel. There is no reason why our green list can’t be expanded to include the US and the most popular European hotspots, or for the UK not to follow the EU’s lead in exempting vaccinated travellers from restrictions. 

“It is time to allow UK citizens to take advantage of the fantastic success of the vaccine rollout but at the moment our competitors are reacting faster to the improving health situation and will reap the rewards this summer.”

Mark Tanzer, CEO of Abta – The Travel Association, said: “It is illogical for the Government to not follow its own traffic light system – it makes no sense for Ministers to say people shouldn’t travel to amber countries when the Government’s own system allows people to do so in a risk-managed way. Travel agents and tour operators, and their customers, need a clear and simple system to follow without contradictions otherwise our sector’s recovery will be unnecessarily slow and drawn out.”

Notes to Editors:

The full text of the letter to the Prime Minister, alongside the list of signatories, is below.

Contact: Tim Alderslade – [email protected] / 0758 4016925

Airlines UK is the trade body for UK-registered airlines and other carriers with a UK operation – with members representing all sectors of the industry. Our members are: 2Excel, AirTanker, British Airways, CargoLogicAir, Eastern Airways, easyJet, FedEx,, Jota Aviation, Loganair, Norwegian UK, Ryanair, Tui Airways, Titan Airways and Virgin Atlantic

Letter to the Prime Minister

Dear Prime Minister,

“Let Britain Fly Again”

As leaders of the UK’s aviation, travel and tourism sectors, we are writing to you to seek urgent clarity on the position of the UK Government regarding the restart to international travel this summer. 

May 17th saw the welcome but extremely limited restart of non-essential international travel, which was intended to deliver a sustainable and robust return of air travel with government policy clear that ‘the resumption of international travel is vital for the economy and the general public, and for allowing families and friends to reconnect and reunite’.

We fully understand concerns about the B.1.617 Indian variant, and potential others. It is clear why India was placed on the red list and we continue to support its use for the highest risk countries. However, formal comments made by Ministers during the last week have moved the goalposts, undermining the very purpose of the risk-based traffic light system.

We were dismayed to hear Ministers say that travel is ‘dangerous’, that people should ‘stay in this country’ and not travel to amber countries – despite this being legal – given that the framework includes such strong safety mitigations. The Government now appears not to want a meaningful restart to international travel this summer, and it is impossible for any business or consumers to plan under this scenario, such that we are genuinely fearful that some UK businesses may fail.

Failures can be avoided. The science shows clearly the green list can be expanded safely now, including to many European countries, the US and the Caribbean. Many currently amber countries have significant levels of vaccinations, rapidly decreasing case numbers and, according to test and trace data, often considerably less than 1% of arrivals testing positive with no identified variants of concern entering the country. Under an evidence-based system based on risk, these should be green.

The UK has never been in a better position to manage the risk from Covid-19. Vaccines prevent people getting ill 95% of the time, protect against all known variants of Covid-19 and reduce transmission by at least 50%. Both the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines are highly effective against the B.1.617 Indian variant according to new PHE data. Along with the vaccination programme, our testing system allows us to assess inbound risk from medium and higher risk countries. With this safety net, we urge you to stick to the established framework, end confusion for travellers and allow our businesses to plan.

Whilst we stay grounded, the rest of Europe is now opening up, introducing waivers for vaccinated persons and easing the criteria to lift restrictions for third countries. Spain announced last Friday that anyone who is fully vaccinated can enter without restriction. The UK is falling behind the rest of the world, with long-term consequences for our connectivity and prospects of a Global Britain. To ensure the UK benefits from a vaccine dividend, Government must recognise the protection its successful vaccination programme now provides and the large numbers of countries moving to a low-risk position.  

Airlines can deliver a meaningful restart safely but a second lost summer for the sector, due to a limited expansion of the green list compared to our neighbours, would cause lasting damage to the UK’s aviation, travel and tourism industries. In that case there would be an urgent need for a dedicated aviation economic support package to safeguard many thousands of jobs otherwise under threat and protect the essential infrastructure that will be critical to the UK’s recovery and future prosperity.

We request an urgent opportunity to meet with you to discuss this situation. 

Yours sincerely,

Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive, Airlines UK
Johan Lundgren
, Chief Executive Officer, easyJet     
Sean Doyle
, Chief Executive, British Airways                               
Steve Heapy
, Chief Executive Officer, Limited & Jet2holidays Limited
Andrew Flintham
Charlie Cornish
, Group Chief Executive, Manchester Airports Group
Michael O’Leary
, CEO, Ryanair Group
Jonathan Hinkles
, Chief Executive, Loganair 
Shai Weiss
, CEO, Virgin Atlantic Limited
Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive, ABTA
Daniele Broccoli, Managing Director, Typically Italian/Typically Spain
Jamie Gardiner, Managing Director, Diverse World