Ryanair boss blasts 'bonkers' travel traffic light scheme

‘There is no green list’: Ryanair boss slams Boris Johnson over ‘bonkers’ traffic light scheme for foreign travel as ministers admit holidays to even safe countries come with ‘a degree of risk’

  • Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said the current traffic light system is ‘bonkers’
  • He said that ‘the whole thing is a shambles’ and claimed ‘there is no green list’
  • Robert Jenrick admitted travel to green countries comes with ‘a degree of risk’ 
  • Comes after the Government sparked chaos by moving Portugal to amber list 

The boss of Ryanair today labelled the Government’s traffic light scheme for international travel a ‘shambles’ and claimed ‘there is no green list’. 

Michael O’Leary accused ministers of ‘making this stuff up as they go along’ after the decision to move Portugal to the ‘amber list’ sparked travel chaos.

He accused Boris Johnson of ‘trying to lock up the British public for no good reason’. 

His comments came as Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick admitted there is a ‘degree of risk involved’ even when travelling to countries on the ‘green list’ because they could be swiftly downgraded. 

Mr Jenrick said ‘this isn’t a normal summer for holidays’ as he urged travellers to ensure their bookings to ‘green’ nations have ‘flexibility’ built in.  

Meanwhile, a travel industry body today said the ‘failed and damaging’ traffic light scheme must be ditched if the sector is to be saved from total collapse.  

The London-based World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) said the Government must scrap the system, which has ‘wreaked havoc’ among consumers and businesses, in order to save hundreds of thousands of jobs.     

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick today admitted there is a ‘degree of risk involved’ even when travelling to countries on the ‘green list’

The risk-based traffic light scheme rates countries red, amber and green and it determines the quarantine and coronavirus testing requirements people face when returning to the UK.

Portugal being moved from ‘green’ to ‘amber’ caught many holidaymakers by surprise and left thousands of UK tourists scrambling to get home before new quarantine rules came into force yesterday morning. 

Mr O’Leary, Ryanair’s chief executive, told Sky News the current scheme must be overhauled. 

‘This stop, go, stop approach to travel is bonkers,’ he said. 

‘Portugal has exactly the same Covid case rates and higher vaccination rates when it was taken off the UK’s green list last week than it had when it went on it.

‘Malta which has higher vaccination rates than the UK and only one third the Covid case rates can’t get from the amber list to the green list.

‘The whole thing is a shambles and it is typical of Boris Johnson’s Government just making this stuff up as they go along.

‘There is no green list. What we keep calling for in the travel industry is now that we have 80 per cent of the adult population in Britain vaccinated, why can’t those people go on holidays to Portugal, Spain without restrictions? They are already vaccinated.’

Told that people who are vaccinated could still contract coronavirus and then spread it to others, Mr O’Leary replied: ‘The percentage of people who are vaccinated contracting Covid is minuscule.

‘The risk to public health is equally minuscule… Boris Johnson is trying to lock up the British public for no good reason other than they can. There is no public health reason.’

Environment Secretary George Eustice sparked confusion about the ‘green list’ yesterday after he said: ‘My advice to people would be holiday at home, we’ve got some great places here.’ 

Asked whether people should be booking trips to ‘green list’ nations, Mr Jenrick told Sky News this morning: ‘Well, let me be clear, you shouldn’t be booking holidays to countries that are currently on either the amber list or the red list.

‘You can go to the admittedly relatively small number of countries on the green list.

‘Even there be aware that this isn’t a normal summer for holidays, we are reviewing that list every three weeks and so I would advise people to look for travel operators who can offer flexibility, would be able to offer rescheduling or repayments if something changes.

‘We would like to open up that green list to more countries but we have obviously got to do so cautiously.’

 

Mr Jenrick said decisions on holidays are a ‘matter for individuals’ but people should ‘exercise caution’ when booking foreign travel because the traffic light ratings are reviewed every three weeks. 

He added: ‘People will make their own judgements. You can choose to book a holiday to a country that is on the green list but there is always a degree of risk involved in that because those countries are reviewed as we have seen with Portugal and things can move quite quickly.’

WTTC acting chief executive Virginia Messina said it is now time ministers ‘abandoned the hugely damaging traffic lights system’.

She said: ‘Consumers, airlines and the wider travel sector were promised a watchlist and three weeks’ notice of any changes from green to amber, and not just four days.

‘It has been incredibly disruptive and costly for both travel and tourism businesses and consumers. It simply hasn’t worked. 

‘What’s needed now is a watertight government policy enabling those who’ve been fully jabbed to travel freely, and not have to self-isolate on their return.’

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