The UK Government announced yesterday that UK residents who have received the full NHS vaccination will not be obliged to quarantine when coming back from an amber list country.
The decision will be implemented from 19 July – the date of the UK’s total reopening despite a growing number of cases – and will include scrapping the recommendation for people to avoid travelling to amber-list countries.
“As we continue with the domestic unlocking, it’s only right we get people travelling again – whether that’s for business to help create jobs, overdue holidays or reconnecting family and friends,” said Transport Minister Grant Shapps. “However, protecting public health still remains our priority and we will act swiftly if action is needed.”
“Allowing quarantine-free travel for fully vaccinated people means they can be reunited with loved ones overseas and we can return to normality as quickly as possible.”
Travellers will still need to take a PCR test up to 72 hours before the departure date and will be required to take a PCR on the second day after they have arrived back in the country.
The UK Government has also said it will review the situation, possibly allowing non-UK vaccinated residents to avoid quarantine, later in the summer.
The decision received overall favourable reviews from the aviation industry, including airports, airlines and aviation associations
Airport operators have generally praised the decision, stating that it’s a step in the right direction.
“Plans to open up travel to ‘Amber’ countries for those who have received both doses of the NHS vaccine without the need for quarantine is another small step in the right direction,” commented Gatwick Airport CEO Stewart Wingate. “Plans to open up travel to ‘Amber’ countries for those who have received both doses of the NHS vaccine without the need for quarantine is another small step in the right direction.”
Wingate added, though, that the government should remove other barriers that impede travel, especially the costly PCR test. “At the very least, if tests are required, they should be the more readily available lateral flow tests or PCR tests carried out free of charge at an NHS facility, as has been done in France.”
The sentiment was shared also by London Southend Airport CEO Glyn Jones, who commented: “Testing costs remain high, keeping travel out of reach for many.
“We are heading in the right direction and hope to see safe travel opportunities continue, not only for travel and tourism but for the many families and friends waiting to be reunited after an extremely challenging time,” he added.
According to Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye, the UK should not be cut from international travel, especially when it comes to the US. “US business can get to the EU, but the UK remains cut off. The UK should open up travel to fully vaccinated people from more countries – particularly our key partners in the US – by the end of July,” he explained. “If the EU can do it, so can the UK.
“We’re working closely with British Airways and Virgin Atlantic to demonstrate it can be done safely, with checks on departure, and no need for delays at immigration on arrival.”
Aviation trade bodies react
The Airport Operators Association (AOA) has praised the move, stating it will help a lot of airports and local economies that depend on them but that the road to recovery is still far.
“We are not out of the woods yet: the road to recovery will be long for our sector,” commented AOA chief executive Karen Dee. “It is vital for our industry that this policy is taken across the four UK nations, and we urge the devolved governments to follow the UK Government’s approach.”
Dee also pointed out that, for the industry to recover fully, vaccinated travellers from abroad should be allowed to come to the UK without quarantine.
“We will also work with the UK and devolved governments on extending this to inbound travellers as well so that people abroad can come to visit relatives and friends in the UK, business leaders can come to invest in our economy and the inbound tourism industry can start its recovery.”
The sentiment was echoed by Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines UK. “Airlines look forward to working with Ministers and Border Force to ensure measures are in place by 19 July to provide a safe and streamlined experience at the UK border,” he commented.
“We now urge the Government to continue this momentum by adding many more countries to the green list next week and removing onerous testing requirements at its next review on 31 July, thereby opening up more non-quarantine travel to all.”
UK airlines have seen an increase in traffic on their websites since the announcement, with British Airways reporting a 96% increase in online traffic compared with last week. Low-cost carrier EasyJet also saw a huge upsurge in bookings, around 400% more compared with the previous week for amber destinations.
“We have been delighted with the customer response to the removal of Amber list quarantine for the fully vaccinated, so Europe has now turned Green for the double jabbed,” explained EasyJet CEO Johan Lundgren. “We have always said that vaccination is the key to unlocking travel and this means that millions will finally be able to reunite with family and loved ones abroad or take that long-awaited trip this summer.”
British Airways CEO Sean Doyle added that while there is still more to do, opening up more travel routes is a great step forward.
“Our people have been working relentlessly behind the scenes to make important changes to the customer experience that will ensure our customers receive a first-class experience and complete peace of mind,” he commented.
British Airways has worked to improve customer experience throughout the whole pandemic, including the enhancement of its digital apps and the reduction of Covid-19 test costs.