Britain’s ‘confusing’ traffic light travel system is a ‘complete mess’ and needs scrapping, experts have warned.
Travellers need ‘certainty’ and have ‘no confidence’ in how red, amber and green countries are decided by the government, they said.
They pointed out ministers are even disagreeing among themselves over the rules amid confusion over France being on the ‘amber-plus list’.
Grant Shapps was despatched today to contract a claim from Dominic Raab France was hit with quarantine rules because of Covid cases on the remote Reunion island.
It sparked a furious reaction from Paris, with an ally of Emmanuel Macron raging the UK position is discriminatory and ‘baffling’.
Another French MP branded the policy ‘Kafka on holiday with Godot’ – with critics pointing out Reunion itself is not covered by the upgraded controls.
Meanwhile Spain is believed to be at risk of being moved up the ‘traffic light’ system in a review next week.
This is despite double-jabbed travellers from the rest of the EU and the US being due to be exempted from quarantine from Monday.
Elsewhere Italy is reportedly not reciprocating the get-out granted by Britain to its citizens.
Vaccinated holidaymakers will still need to isolate for five days on arrival, until at least August 30.
Britain’s apparent attempt to burn bridges across Europe has raised fears of an EU ‘travel war’ over the summer.
The chaos appears to have put Britons off from jetting off abroad, with an exclusive poll for MailOnline finding just 14 per cent will in the coming months.
Travellers need ‘certainty’ and have ‘no confidence’ in how red, amber and green countries are decided by the government, they said. Pictured: Heathrow chaos last weekend
A senior government source also slapped down Mr Raab (pictured yesterday), insisting that he had been wrong
Travel experts were withering of the UK’s traffic light system, said it needs to be ‘scrapped’ and pointed the blame at the government for the confusion.
Paul Charles, CEO of The PC Agency travel consultancy, told MailOnline: ‘Even government ministers are disagreeing with themselves over how to apply their own traffic light rules. The system is a complete mess.
‘No-one apart from ministers seems to have confidence in how red, amber or green countries are chosen. The data is opaque, the explanations lacking.
‘It’s no wonder consumers are so confused when even us as analysts are sometimes left stumped by the bizarre and often panicked decision-making by government.
‘It’s time the system was scrapped because it has failed us all. The travel sector, and consumers, need certainty.
‘The alternative should be a go/no-go simple system, without the regular weekly changes.
‘Those fully-jabbed should be given the freedom to decide their own level of risk, as US citizens are.
‘The Prime Minister wanted to give people back their freedom – it’s time he stuck to his word when it comes to travel.’
Travel journalist Simon Calder : ‘As always with travel, hope for the best but be prepared for chaos.
‘But with most of the heavy Covid lifting – checking tests and forms – done by the airline at the far end, I am not expecting lines stretching for hours.’
A Redfield & Wilton Strategies poll for MailOnline found just 14 per cent of Brits are planning a summer holiday abroad this year
The decision to move France on to the amber-plus list two weeks ago led to thousands of vaccinated Britons having to self-isolate for ten days on their return.
The diplomatic spat escalated over recent days after the country was excluded from a UK quarantine exemption for travellers who have been double-jabbed in the EU.
French Europe minister Clement Beaune yesterday branded the UK’s stance towards his country ‘excessive and frankly baffling’.
He said: ‘If I understood correctly, this is being done in the name of the famous Beta variant, the South African variant, which represents less than five per cent of cases in France, most of which are in our overseas territories that are not affected by the same flows of people towards the UK.’
In a round of interviews this morning, Mr Shapps said the decision had been down to ‘overall concern’ about France, not the situation on Reunion.
He told Sky News: ‘The Beta variant, it’s not just – as has been reported – on an island thousands of miles away.
‘It was also an issue in particular in northern France, so it has been an overall concern.
‘And look, the big concern is that we don’t allow a variant in which somehow is able to escape the vaccine programme that we have got.’
Mr Shapps said a decision on France’s status will be taken ‘by this time next week’ as part of the regular travel list update every three weeks.
French Europe minister Clement Beaune yesterday branded the UK’s stance towards his country ‘excessive and frankly baffling’
Asked if there could be a change before then, the minister told the BBC: ‘No, it’s only six days away actually, so I wouldn’t expect anything in advance of that, but it is the moment at which this will be looked at.’
Pushed on whether that meant no move on Spain before then, Mr Shapps said: ‘That’s right.
‘I would encourage people to broadly ignore the sort of ongoing speculation as much as is possible.’
He added: ‘One thing I have seen over the last year with all this going on is that, quite often, the speculation is not all that helpful, or all that accurate indeed.
‘When we get the information from the Joint Biosecurity Centre, that’s the first point at which it really becomes clarified.’
A senior government source also slapped down Mr Raab, insisting he had been wrong.
The source said: ‘Ministers took this decision based on data on the prevalence of the Beta variant in mainland France.’ They added: ‘This data did not include La Reunion.’
Mr Raab’s comments led to fresh criticism of the Government’s decision, which many are hoping will be reversed next week.
The Border Force union said there could be more queuing for passengers if they have to check the jab status of arrivals but did not think it would be ‘catastrophic’. Pictured: Gatwick last weekend
Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said: ‘Ministers appear to be tying themselves in knots trying to explain their decision.
‘If they misinterpreted the data over cases in mainland France they need to come clean and apologise.
‘It’s completely unfair that holidaymakers who booked in good faith in line with the Government’s own advice, have had to fork out extra for early flights, or lost income through having to isolate when they came home.
‘This is why Labour has been calling for the country-by-country data informing the traffic light system to be published. The Government must do that without delay.’
The remote island of Reunion is nearly 5,800 miles away from Paris and this was pointed out during an interview with Mr Raab yesterday.
Shadow transport secretary Jim McMahon said: ‘Ministers appear to be tying themselves in knots trying to explain their decision’
But he said: ‘It’s not the distance that matters, it’s the ease of travel between different component parts of every individual country.’
The Beta variant is a cause for concern because it is believed to be more resistant to the AstraZeneca vaccine.
A spokesman for Brittany Ferries said: ‘This is madness. It would be like France hammering British holidaymakers due to a Covid outbreak on the Falkland Islands.
‘It makes you wonder if those in the centre of power have access to an atlas or a geography GCSE between them.’
Layla Moran, chairman of the all-party Parliamentary group on coronavirus, said: ‘Ministers should have clear justifications for any changes made with regards to international travel.’
She added: ‘This slapdash approach will only continue to undermine public confidence.’
No 10 has continued to insist the decision to place France on the amber-plus list had no relation to Reunion.
It said the Government used data which said Beta cases in mainland France stood at five per cent.
France is the only EU country from which those vaccinated under the UK programme must self-isolate for ten days when they return.
The decision is set to be reviewed next week and ministers are hopeful the country could be removed from the list.
The Foreign Secretary openly admitted that the classification was based on the prevalence of the strain ‘in the Reunion bit of France’ – which is an island in the Indian Ocean. Pictured, the 6,000-mile difference between Paris and Reunion Island
La Reunion (pictured) will from Saturday for the next two weeks go into partial lockdown, with movement only allowed 10 kilometres from people’s home in the daytime and five kilometres on a Sunday, said its top official, prefect Jacques Billant
The Government is considering replacing amber-plus with a new ‘amber watchlist’ to deter people from travelling to areas with high Covid rates.
The list would show which countries could change to ‘red’ at any moment, forcing travellers to pay £1,750 per adult to stay in quarantine hotels on their return.
There are fears Spain could be added to the amber watchlist next week due to rising cases.
Meanwhile the airline industry continued to suffer huge losses as a result of the pandemic.
IAG, the owner of British Airways, revealed more details of the huge hit it has taken over the last 16 months.
The London-listed conglomerate suffered a loss after taxation of 2billion euros in the six months to the end of June.
That was almost half the group’s net loss of 3.8billion euros in the same period a year earlier, when the pandemic erupted and ravaged air travel.
Revenues were down 60 per cent at 2.2billion euros and the airline said it ‘continues to be adversely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic together with government restrictions and quarantine requirements’.
Passenger capacity in the second quarter was only 22 per cent of its pre-pandemic level.
Looking ahead, the group plans to operate about 45 percent of its capacity in the key summer months, compared with 2019.
IAG added it remained ready to ramp up services once international travel curbs are fully lifted.
Chief Executive Luis Gallego said: ‘In the short term, our focus is on ensuring our operational readiness, so we have the flexibility to capitalise on an environment where there’s evidence of widespread pent-up demand when travel restrictions are lifted.
‘We know that recovery will be uneven, but we’re ready to take advantage of a surge in air travel demand in line with increasing vaccination rates.’
IAG was ‘ready to fly as much as 75 percent of its 2019 capacity’ in the final three months of this year.
Travellers could face FIVE-HOUR queues at airports when UK opens up to the US and EU on Monday as unions call for vaccine checks to be done ‘upstream’ to save Border Force
- Officials said staff should expect the staggering waiting times during peak hours
- Border Force union warned of more queuing if they have to check vaccine status
- But the Department for Transport said travellers would be checked before flying
Airports could face five-hour queues when Britain opens up to the US and most of the EU next week, ministers have been warned.
Officials said staff should expect the staggering waiting times during peak hours after international travel restrictions are relaxed on Monday.
They called for vaccine checks to be done ‘upstream’ – at the border before people fly – to help out airport workers in the UK.
The Border Force union said there will be more queuing for passengers if they have to check the jab status of arrivals but did not think it would be ‘catastrophic’.
But the Department for Transport last night confirmed to MailOnline travellers would be checked before people fly to Britain.
England will allow US and EU travellers who are fully vaccinated against coronavirus to enter without the need to quarantine from Monday.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced the new rules on Wednesday following intense pressure from the travel sector.
The Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Northern Ireland Assembly followed the move.
But earlier this month the US State Department advised all Americans not to travel to the UK due to the Delta variant and this is not expected to change until August.
The Department for Transport last night confirmed to MailOnline travellers would be checked before people fly. Pictured: Heathrow last weekend
What a French farce! UK says France went on amber-plus list over Covid cases on island 6,000 miles away
A fresh row erupted over France being put on the amber-plus list last night after Dominic Raab admitted it was because of Covid cases on an island 6,000 miles away from Paris.
The Foreign Secretary yesterday said the country had been added to the list because of high levels of the Beta coronavirus variant on the French island of La Reunion in the Indian Ocean.
His claim came in the wake of a series of Government denials that this was the case.
The decision two weeks ago to put France on the list triggered fierce controversy and led to thousands of fully-vaccinated holidaymakers having to self-isolate for ten days on their return.
It also sparked a diplomatic row with Paris. French president Emmanuel Macron is said to be annoyed about the decision to place France on the amber-plus list.
UK officials warned ministers before the Covid-Operations committee’s move to open up travel it will cause a huge surge in arrivals.
They said it could lead to staggering queues of up to five hours at airports during peak times.
According to the Times, they called for vaccination checks to be done ‘upstream’ to limit pressure on Border Force workers.
But the enforcement agency’s union said they did not think the queues would be ‘catastophic’ depending on if they had to check vaccine passports.
A spokesman told MailOnline: ‘It depends on the traffic. All the resources we have are there but there will still be queues.
‘We don’t have fewer staff than before the pandemic but they are structured differently.
‘There are queues in normal years, that won’t be different. If we have to check vaccination certificates, which we’re not sure if we will have to, then it will be different.
‘The problem has been checking them at the border for the Department for Health.
‘There will be more waiting but it will not be catastrophic. It won’t be as bad as we have seen during the pandemic if we don’t have to check these documents.’
The Department for Transport last night said EU passengers will use an electronic system to show their vaccine status while in the US they have physical copies that will be checked by airlines before departure.
It will help speed up Border Force moving people through British airports when they land.
The UK has a far higher case rate than the US currently – but the countries are on different trajectories
Tide of bookings after cruises comeback
Bookings for ocean cruises and transatlantic flights have surged following the relaxation of travel restrictions. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced fully vaccinated travellers from amber countries will not have to quarantine. It means from Monday, liners will be able to take passengers to foreign destinations for the first time in more than a year.
To meet the pent-up demand, Viking Cruises has opened up bookings for three years and launched expeditions across the globe inclu-ding river cruises on the Mekong in Vietnam, the Nile in Egypt and the Mississippi in America. P&O Cruises and Cunard anno-unced international travel dates after being inundated with requests. Meanwhile demand for flights from the US to the UK has surged since the Government announced the scrapping of the quarantine requirement for fully jabbed travellers from America.
Virgin Atlantic said it had more than three times as many bookings for New York to London flights compared with a week earlier. The reopening of Britain’s borders is a major boast to the cruise industry, which has suffered a worldwide loss of £36billion and 334,000 jobs since March 2020.
The sector was shut down at the start of the pandemic and the Foreign Office had to repatriate some 19,000 Britons on 60 cruise ships hit by Covid outbreaks. After 14 months, domestic cruises have been permitted since May 17. But it is the reintroduction of international cruising that may save the industry.
The Foreign Office has removed its advice against cruise travel and operators said they will pay to repatriate passengers if necessary. Tom McAlpin, boss of Virgin Voyages, said: ‘This is tremendous news for UK cruising. It’s been a long, challenging 18 months, and not only are people ready to travel again, they’re ready to do it in style – and importantly – in the safest way possible.’
Airlines reported staggering booking surges yesterday, with trips from New York to London spiking by 250 per cent while overall reservations from the US leaped 100 per cent week on week.
There was also a ‘swift uptick’ in bookings from Portugal, Italy and Greece after quarantine was axed for double-jabbed visitors.
A Virgin Atlantic spokesman told MailOnline: ‘Following confirmation that isolation and quarantine for fully vaccinated EU and US citizens arriving into the UK will be removed from 2 August, Virgin Atlantic has seen a significant uptick in interest in travel from the US to the UK.
‘Overall flight bookings are up by more than 100 per cent week on week, with bookings from New York to London increasing by nearly 250 per cent, compared to the previous week.’
An easyJet spokesman said: ‘Following the announcement, we have seen a positive impact on flight bookings, including on flights between Europe and the UK, now that those who are fully vaccinated and no longer need to quarantine.
‘Should passengers wish to move their flights to after the restriction is lifted on Monday, all easyJet customers are able to change their flights this summer without a change fee at any time up to two hours before departure, providing even more last-minute flexibility.’
And flight price expert Gavin Harris, from Skyscanner, said the cost of bookings is staying low as airlines try to entice more customers.
He added: ‘Travel providers – including airlines – are using price to help encourage bookings and build confidence as people start to travel again, and this extremely competitive marketplace is fantastic news for travellers looking for good value trips.
‘Many providers have been vocal about their plans to keep prices as attractive as possible, so if you know how to search and compare there are many amazing deals.
‘Travel is returning, with many countries relaxing rules and popular spots in Europe and further afield welcoming travellers once again.
‘We expect prices to fluctuate with demand, but generally we will see providers keep fares low as they compete to win back travellers’ business as they dust off their suitcases and return to the skies.’
Passengers in the international arrivals hall at Terminal 2 of London Heathrow Airport are pictured yesterday
Curb rip-off tests to let UK soar, say travel chiefs
Travel chiefs and business leaders demanded ministers act to reduce the cost of rip-off tests for holidaymakers.
Ministers announced on Wednesday that restrictions on international travel will be scrapped – allowing cruises to begin again. They also said that double-jabbed US and EU travellers will be able to travel to the UK without the need to quarantine.
But there was nothing said about the high cost of tests that travellers must take to prove their Covid negative status, which can be hundreds of pounds. Abta, the group which represents tour operators and travel agents, welcomed the resumption of cruising but warned barriers remain. A spokesman said: ‘We need to see the Government make further progress on making testing more affordable and proportionate, and we need to see more destinations added to the green list at next week’s review.’
Cabinet ministers agreed to remove self-isolation rules from 4am this Monday for citizens from the US and some parts of the EU.
At this week’s meeting, Boris Johnson personally pushed for the new rules, arguing: ‘If we don’t let travel restart now, when are we going to do it?’
Currently, only people who received their jabs in the UK from the NHS can avoid quarantine when arriving back from amber list countries.
But under the new system, tourists will not have to isolate for ten days upon arrival if they have had a complete course of vaccines approved by the US or EU medical authorities.
The rules will also benefit British expats living in the US or on the Continent.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: ‘We’re helping reunite people living in the US and European countries with their family and friends in the UK.’
Amber arrivals who have been fully vaccinated in the US and European countries will still be required to complete a pre-departure test, alongside a PCR test on or before day two after arrival.
The current requirement for a test on day eight will be dropped but those vaccinated in the US will also need to provide proof of US residency.
The exception to the plans will be arrivals from France, who will continue to be required to enter quarantine because of the spread of the Beta variant in the country.
But there is growing confidence that France may be taken off the ‘amber-plus’ list next week.
Travel and tourism bosses hailed the rule change, with Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye saying the Government had made ‘the right decision’.
It follows months of criticism ministers have been too slow to restart international travel and tourism, particularly given the UK’s successful vaccination rollout.
Mr Holland-Kaye said: ‘We will now work with colleagues in the industry to boost UK trade, reunite family and friends and generate billions in new tourist income.’
Sean Doyle, British Airways chief executive, said the move ‘will allow us to reunite loved ones and get global Britain back in business’.
Airlines UK, which represents big carriers, said the move would offer ‘a lifeline for thousands of businesses reliant on international inbound travel’.
Joss Croft, of trade association UKinbound, said it would ‘allow the £28billion inbound tourism sector, which supports over 500,000 jobs across the UK, to finally restart’.
Ministers announced the scheme as part of a goodwill gesture, hoping the US and other EU countries will reciprocate and allow quarantine-free access for Britons.
But at the moment it looks like such a move is unlikely from Washington, which recently said it had no plans to lift advice that US citizens should not travel here.
The new rules apply to the US, the EU, plus countries in the European Free Trade Association and the small states of Andorra, Monaco and the Vatican City.
They will have to have been inoculated with vaccines authorised by the European Medicines Agency, the US Food and Drug Administration or the Swiss vaccination system.
Mr Shapps said: ‘We’ve taken great strides on our journey to reopen international travel and today is another important step forward.
‘Whether you are a family reuniting for the first time since the start of the pandemic or a business benefiting from increased trade – this is progress we can all enjoy.
‘We will of course continue to be guided by the latest scientific data but thanks to our world-leading domestic vaccination programme, we’re able to look to the future and start to rebuild key transatlantic routes with the US while further cementing ties with our European neighbours.’
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘By reopening quarantine-free travel for travellers who have been fully vaccinated in European countries and the USA, we’re taking another step on the road to normality which will reunite friends and families and give UK businesses a boost.’
Claire Walker, from the British Chambers of Commerce, said: ‘Businesses will also want to see Government do everything it can to… drive down the cost of any tests required for travellers.’