Most popular European holiday destinations such as Spain, Italy, Greece and Portugal should be on the Government’s “green list” for foreign travel, according to the boss of easyJet.
Chief executive Johan Lundgren said he “would expect almost all major European countries” to be put in the low-risk category when overseas holidays from the UK are allowed to resume.
Under the new traffic light system, people arriving in the UK from a “green” country will not be required to self-isolate, but those entering from an “amber” destination must quarantine for 10 days.
Existing rules for arrivals from “red” locations will continue, including the mandatory stay in a quarantine hotel.
Everyone returning to or visiting the UK will be required to take at least one coronavirus test before departure and after they arrive.
The earliest date that foreign holidays could be permitted for people in England under Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s road map for easing restrictions is May 17.
Mr Lundgren was asked if he expects destinations such as France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Cyprus and Turkey to be on the “green list”.
He replied: “Yes, by the time we open up for travel on the 17th of May and if the Government continues to have the plan in place on the two-test system.
“I wouldn’t see a reason why you wouldn’t have the majority of the countries of Europe in there.”
The UK’s seven-day rate of coronavirus cases per 100,000 people stands at 29, but many popular short-haul locations have much higher figures, including France (348), Greece (185), Italy (169) and Spain (111).
Mr Lundgren said people should be able to return from “green” countries without “any testing at all because it would be considered low risk”.
He added: “It’s important the Government comes out with this list as soon as possible because this is the main question for most of our customers right now.”
Aviation minister Robert Courts told the Commons Transport Select Committee that countries will be categorised in “the early part of May”.
He added that it “wouldn’t be right for me to speculate” on the lists.
Assessments will be based on a range of factors, including the proportion of a country’s population that has been vaccinated, rates of infection, emerging new variants, and the country’s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.
Simon McNamara, who leads airline trade body the International Air Transport Association’s UK and Ireland activities, told the committee the Government’s approach to reopening foreign travel is “still too complex and too cautious”.
He said: “We are approaching a point where the pandemic in the UK is under control. We have good protections in place with testing, with vaccination as well, and we think we can open in a faster but safe way.”
Mark Tanzer, chief executive at travel trade organisation Abta, told MPs the plan “doesn’t recognise the huge change that vaccination has created”.
He said tour operators are struggling to explain to customers who have had their jabs that “actually nothing’s changed from last year” in terms of travel restrictions.
Mr Courts told the meeting: “I accept this is a cautious unlocking of international travel. It is meant to be, because it’s meant to be robust and it’s meant to be something that is sustainable and that protects public health and ensures that we don’t have to go backwards again.”
Brian Strutton, general secretary of pilots’ union Balpa, told Sky News that if the Government wants people returning from “green” destinations to take PCR tests – which cost around £120 each – rather than cheaper lateral flow tests then it “should be subsidising them to make the price reasonable”.
He also urged the Government to “kick-start” international travel by offering the tests free to key workers as “they deserve a holiday”.