Vague and costly recommendations are not enough to reboot aviation and tourism sectors facing another summer without international travel, says the Transport Committee.
In an analysis of the Government’s Global Travel Taskforce Report, the Transport Committee concludes that the Report sets out a framework without the detail required to restart international travel. Where detail is provided, the costs may be disproportionate to the risk and add £500 on to the cost of a family of four travelling to the safest parts of the globe where the vaccine roll-out is comparable to the UK.
This distinct lack of clarity does not offer confidence to industry or consumers to plan, invest or recover from the coronavirus pandemic. It leaves the planned safe restart of international travel on May 17 in jeopardy.
The UK’s aviation and tourism sectors were poised to accommodate the public’s desire to travel for business, study, holidays and to visit loved-ones. The UK [aviation industry] has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, according to the European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation. Another summer without international travel heralds significant economic adversity.
In today’s Report, the Committee sets out four clear recommended actions for Government:
- Populate the traffic-light framework with destination countries by May 1 and announce the details in a statement to Parliament.
- Explain the criteria and mechanism by which countries will move between risk categories by May 1.
- Offer an affordable testing regime that supports public health and safe travel for everyone by maximising the role of lateral flow tests and ensuring the provision of affordable polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, where required.
- Act immediately to reduce waiting times and queues at the UK border, including working bilaterally with partner countries to agree mutual recognition of travel health certification, deploying more staff at the border, processing passenger locator forms before passengers arrive in the UK and establishing an efficient system based on a single digital app to process health certification submitted in a range of languages.
Transport Committee Chair, Huw Merriman MP, said:
“The aviation and travel sectors were crying out for a functional report, setting out clear rules and offering certainty. This is not it. Where the industry craved certainty, the Government has failed to provide it. For UK citizens seeking to travel to the parts of the globe where the vaccine has been delivered as rapidly as the UK, the cost to families from testing could be greater than the cost of the flights.
“This is a missed opportunity for the Government to capitalise on the UK’s world-leading ‘vaccine dividend’. How can it be right that hauliers, arriving from parts of the globe where the vaccine roll-out is slow, are able to use cheaper lateral flow testing whilst a trip back from Israel requires a PCR test which is four times as expensive. This was an opportunity to provide a global lead with standardised rules on international health certification and promoting app-based technology, making the processes at borders more secure and less time consuming. The urgent situation facing the aviation and travel sectors warrants a clear action plan to green light our travel – and the Government must urgently set it out.”
The Committee has been tracking the impact of coronavirus on aviation. The most recent report was published in March, urging Government to publish an aviation map to recovery. Further details here.