The boss of the UK’s biggest budget airline has warned that British travellers will be “left behind” in the race to the sun because of excessive caution by the government.
As the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, prepares to publish a “green list” of no-quarantine nations, Johan Lundgren, chief executive of easyJet, has called for almost all European countries to be included.
He told The Independent: “Most of the European countries should be in that green category. We expect and hope to see as many of them as possible on Friday as possible.
“Travel can be reopened in a safe way, and the key to this is the fantastic success of the UK vaccination programme.
“But the irony is now that we’re seeing the European Union recommending to member states that they allow people to travel if they have been vaccinated with no restrictions whatsoever: no quarantine, no expensive testing that needs to be done.
“British travellers will be left behind and will be the worst impacted by this pandemic, and for no good reason at all.”
Leaks from the government suggest that the list will be very short. Among southern European sunshine destinations, Malta and Portugal are the most prominent possibilities – with Spain, France, Italy, Croatia and Greece likely to be rated amber.
Many in the travel industry expect these major countries to be added to the green list at the end of June or in July, the start of the peak holiday season.
Follow travel news live: Green list of safe countries to be announced as foreign holiday rules ease
But the easyJet boss warned there was a danger UK holidaymakers would be disadvantaged because the prime accommodation will have been taken up by other nationalities who are allowed to travel.
“Hoteliers will start allocating hotel rooms accordingly,” he said. “The best deals can be done when you can plan your bookings at an earlier stage.
“There is no medical or scientific reasons why you shouldn’t allow travel to start taking place in Europe.”
Mr Lundgren is one of five aviation chief executives who have written a joint article for the Telegraph warning that the UK could be “stuck on the runway”.
Along with Charlie Cornish of Manchester Airports Group, Sean Doyle of British Airways, Steve Heapy of Jet2 and John Holland-Kaye of Heathrow, he writes: “Instead of taking advantage of the success of the vaccine programme, the government risks closing the UK off from the rest of the world.
“If we are not prepared to accept any risk, then travel will never restart and we will not be able to support travel and tourism businesses devastated by the pandemic.”
The official “roadmap to recovery” says: “The government’s objective is to see a safe and sustainable return to international travel, for business and pleasure.”