Gun fired on autumn getaway as travel rules are ‘simplified’ and costs cut

·4-min read

A Cabinet minister has fired the starting gun for a great autumn getaway.

Grant Shapps tweeted that he would be announcing measures later to simplify international and cut costs later on Friday.

“I’ll set out measures to simplify international travel later today in order to reduce costs, take advantage of higher levels of vaccination, and keep us all safe,” The Transport Secretary wrote.

Holidaymakers and the travel industry were braced for take-off as the Government was set to announce a shake-up of foreign travel rules.

Travelling will be made cheaper and more straightforward for the doubled-vaccinated under the long-awaited review of coronavirus rules.

One tour operator said it had already seen a jump in bookings ahead of the relaxation of the regime.

James Pieslak, of Jet2, said: “Bookings have risen in the last few days, particularly the last 24 hours. If what we have seen speculated happens, they will certainly go up even further.

“These changes, if they happen, will give people a lot more confidence to get away to the sunshine.”

As airports prepared to welcome back tens of thousands more passengers, particularly for the half-term break, shares in travel companies and airlines leapt ahead of the announcement.

OnTheBeach was up 6.3 per cent in trading this morning, package holiday firm TUI increased by 3.7 per cent and British Airways-owner IAG was up 3.5 per cent.

After weeks of pressure from the battered travel business, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps was expected to announce:

* The green and amber list of countries will be merged to form a “go” group —with a separate “no go” category.

* There will be separate rules for the double-jabbed and the unvaccinated, with the latter facing quarantine on their return from at least some countries.

* A requirement to take a costly PCR test prior to returning to England from countries deemed low risk will be scrapped for the fully vaccinated.

* PCR tests to be taken on day two after returning will also be axed for double-jabbed passengers, who will instead have to take a lateral flow test.

* If they test positive on the lateral flow test, they would have to take a PCR test, which are being used to identify variants coming into the country.

* Individuals may have to pay £30 for the lateral flow test, rather than a free one from the NHS, though this was still being finalised.

* The red list will be significantly reduced, with Turkey — a popular destination for October half term holiday breaks — likely to be removed.

Ministers met this morning to finalise the overhaul with Environment Secretary George Eustice leaving open that there could be last-minute changes.

Travel companies and the UK’s biggest airports said a simpler and cheaper set of rules would give people confidence to travel abroad again.

Liz Edwards, a spokeswoman for Tui, said: “We believe by removing complex and costly tests for fully vaccinated customers and greatly reducing the red list we will see an uptick in bookings as customers become more confident in travelling overseas and feeling like they can book with more certainty.”

Heathrow chief operating officer Emma Gilthorpe said: “It will be great news if the Government streamlines the travel rules to allow us to open up more routes safely.”

Russell Guthrie, a Gatwick Airport spokesperson, added: “Gatwick and our staff will be ready to welcome back passengers in larger numbers, including over the half term period, if as expected significant changes are made to UK travel restrictions.

“We know there is significant pent up demand and changes to travel restrictions - including the removal of expensive tests for those who have been double vaccinated - would help give travellers confidence to book for half term, Christmas and beyond.”

A spokesperson for London Stansted said: “We know demand for holidays and to see family and friends remains very high and we are ready to welcome more passengers to the airport in the weeks ahead.

“The UK’s recovery continues to lag beyond Europe so it’s imperative the Government takes the opportunity to deliver a simplified travel system.”

A London Luton Airport spokesperson: “We welcome any changes that make travelling easier, more affordable and help restore consumer confidence. This is not just about allowing people the chance of a week in the sun, it’s about reuniting families and re-connecting people and businesses.

“We look forward to enabling more of these journeys once again.”

Ministers introduced the traffic light system in May to reduce the risk of importing new Covid variants as it opened up the economy and eased domestic social distancing restrictions through the summer.

Relaxation of the rules will be a major boost to the travel industry and its staff. Many workers are still relying on the Government’s furlough support scheme and could face being made redundant when it ends on September 30.

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