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Flight bookings surge in UK after change to Covid travel list

Airlines on Thursday reported a surge in flight bookings from the UK after the government announced that fully vaccinated passengers and their children could return from amber-listed countries without quarantine after 19 July.

EasyJet said that bookings to destinations rated as amber for coronavirus rose by 400%, and holiday bookings increased by 440 week-on-week in the hours since the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, confirmed the change in policy on Thursday morning.

British Airways said website traffic almost doubled after the announcement, with Spanish and US amber destinations becoming the most searched destinations, alongside the the Balearic and Caribbean islands, which were listed as green.

Spain, Greece and Portugal topped the amber list countries for flights and holidays, according to the airline easyJet, which added an extra 145,000 seats for the summer.

Johan Lundgren, chief executive of easyJet, said: “We have been delighted with the customer response to the removal of amber list quarantine for the fully vaccinated, so Europe has now turned green for the double jabbed.”

However, consumer groups said Britons should remain wary of booking since many destinations, such as the US, still barred UK arrivals, and there was potential confusion with Foreign Office travel advice, affecting insurance policies.

The consumer advice group Which? said that people making bookings should be aware of the risks of disruption and ensure they had comprehensive cover.

The group’s travel editor, Rory Boland, said: “It’s important that people take into consideration the barriers that could still prevent them from travelling, before rushing to book. Other countries continue to impose restrictions for UK arrivals, and it’s been suggested several millions of people could have plans disrupted if they are told to self-isolate after coronavirus exposure.”

Concern over the rapid rise in cases and spread of the Delta variant of the coronavirus in the UK could still thwart holiday plans for many.

Italy, Portugal and Spain have all recently tightened entry requirements for UK travellers; Italy requires five days of quarantine. France is expected to review its policy on UK travellers next week, and with the UK on France’s own amber or orange list, unvaccinated holidaymakers are barred.

Airlines urged the government to continue to review testing requirements. A vaccinated family of four was still likely to spend from £400 to £500 on virus tests in order to take a break this summer in European amber list countries.

Labour, which continued to urge the release of data behind the government’s decision making on amber list countries, criticised ministers’ claims about the cost of testing, after Shapps said that £10 tests were available. Labour said that according to the government’s approved list of providers the tests were only available at walk-in centres in Bradford and had since been removed from that list.

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