Ryanair and Manchester Airports Group (MAG), the UK’s largest airport group, has filed a legal challenge demanding that the government be more transparent in handling the contentious “traffic light” travel system.
Many airlines, including British Airways owner IAG (ICAG.L) and Virgin Atlantic, have joined legal action against the UK over travel restrictions, increasing pressure on the government to loosen restrictions that jeopardize businesses and jobs. With protests and demonstrations around the country, British pilots, cabin crew, travel agencies, and other workers are also pressing politicians to restore overseas lines.
Drop in Passengers counts
Manchester Airports Group (MAG) announced a deficit of £374 million (€435 million) from April 1, 2020, to March 31, 2021, on July 8, 2021. The UK’s largest airport company reported an 89 percent drop in passenger counts, citing current restrictions on international air travel as the primary cause. Companies such as British Airways (ICAG.L), EasyJet (EZJ.L), TUI, and Jet2 (JET2.L) have also taken on billions of pounds in debt to endure more than 15 months of travel restrictions. All airlines and airports have been hit hard by the travel restrictions, and they argue a full reopening is needed to help them recover and keep millions of jobs alive.
“We have supported every measure the government has demanded in response to Covid-19, and we also welcomed the Global Travel Taskforce’s traffic light system to facilitate the safe, sustainable, and strong restoration of international travel,” stated Charlie Cornish, CEO of MAG. He also criticized the government’s unwillingness to open up International travel by putting low-risk countries on the green list, claiming that most countries’ traffic lights are locked on amber for no apparent reason, although having significantly lower incidence rates than the UK.
Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair group, stated: “The UK’s traffic light system has been a whole shambles from the start that is inflicting untold damage to the aviation industry and irritating and upsetting tens of millions of British households after they see their vacation plans and circle of relatives visits disrupted by the government’s mismanagement of global travel.”
They demanded that Prime Minister Boris Johnson explain the scientific basis for this system, which the government appears to have invented. The issues are resolved as soon as possible, with the government allowing everyone to understand how the system works and allowing international travel to resume over the summer.
Traffic Light: Green, Amber and Red
Passengers returning from less than a dozen countries are exempt from quarantine under the existing United Kingdom travel restrictions, which were recently reinforced to exclude Portugal, the only major tourist destination. The government’s traffic light system assigns countries a green, amber, or red rating based on their Covid danger. Green-rated nations do not require travelers to isolate themselves on their return, but they must take a Covid test before and after their stay. The only UK or Irish nationals or UK residents are allowed to return, and they must pay for a 10-day stay at a government quarantine hotel if they arrive from an amber country.
Ministers have claimed that they are taking a careful approach, prioritizing the removal of domestic constraints in the United Kingdom. According to them, the decision to remove Portugal from the green list was made in response to concerns about the spread of Covid-19 variations. The Department of Transportation said it sought to “balance the timely reopening of international travel while maintaining public health and protecting the vaccination rollout” but declined to comment on the court proceedings. “Our traffic-light system carefully monitors the danger of new variations, and we have provided £7 billion to help sustain the sector during the pandemic.’