Government travel rules mean holidays only open to ‘people who can afford it’, says easyJet boss

Helen Coffey
·3-min read
<p>EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren</p> (Tim Anderson)

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren

(Tim Anderson)

The proposed government rules for international travel would exclude foreign holidays for everyone barring “people who can afford it”, an airline boss has said.

EasyJet CEO Johan Lundgren said that, if pre-departure and arrival PCR tests are required for travellers arriving in the UK, the expense would be “way over and above what the cost is of an average easyJet fare”.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Mr Lundgren claimed the cost of multiple tests meant “you wouldn’t open up international travel for everyone, you would open up international travel for people who can afford it”, excluding a huge number of prospective holidaymakers.

He made the comments following the prime minister’s press conference on 5 April, during which he confirmed that international travel would restart with the aid of a “traffic light” system.

Countries will be assigned a colour based on risk, with different rules and restrictions applied to each category.

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The green category, comprised of the lowest risk destinations, won’t require arrivals to quarantine on return to the UK, but pre-departure and post-arrival tests will still be needed.

“This new category will accommodate countries where we judge the risk to be lower, based for instance on vaccinations, infection rates, the prevalence of variants of concern, and their genomic sequencing capacity (or access to genomic sequencing),” says the government.

However, Mr Lundgren highlighted the extra costs involved, even for those holidaying in the lowest-risk destinations.

“It should not be needed to put any more complexities and cost in order to travel to and from those destinations,” he argued.

Addressing the fact that the additional expense of PCR tests could prohibit many from being able to afford holidays, he added: “I don’t think that is fair, I don’t think it’s right, and I don’t think it is necessarily established from a medical and scientific point of view that is the right thing to do.

“If they choose, however, to go down that route to have the tests in place, it should be the same type of testing, the lateral flow testing, which is much cheaper, more accessible, that is being used to open up the domestic sector as an example.”

When asked about Mr Lundgren’s comments, Boris Johnson said: “You know, I raised that very issue myself, yesterday. I do think we want to make things as easy as we possibly can.

“The boss of easyJet is right to focus on this issue, and we’re going to see what we can do to make things as flexible and as affordable as possible.

“I do want to see international travel, start up again, we have to be realistic – a lot of the destinations that we want to go to at the moment are suffering, a new wave of the illness of Covid, as we know.”

John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow airport, agreed that expensive tests could be a real issue in dampening demand for travel. He said: “The main concern is the cost of all of this – both the pre-departure test and the post-arrival test which, as I understand it, needs to be a PCR test.

“This could become prohibitively expensive for a lot of people who just want to be able to go about their normal business.

“We need to make sure that this doesn’t just become something that only wealthy people can afford to do, that it’s much more democratic and accessible than that.”