09 Dec

Airlines and travel associations demand review of foreign travel advice approach, to give the sector its own much needed "shot in the arm" this winter

  • Foreign office travel advice advises against almost all travel, which invalidates most insurance
  • This lessens the impact of the new testing regime before it has even come into force
  • Tens of thousands of jobs at risk unless the travel sector can get moving again

UK airlines, travel agents and operators have today called on the Government to urgently revise its approach to foreign travel advice, which risks preventing the industry getting back on its feet and holidaymakers back in the air.  

Despite the new Test to Release scheme coming into effect on 15 December, which allows for reduced quarantine periods for international arrivals, trade associations Airlines UK and ABTA have said the numbers of people travelling overseas is unlikely to significantly increase as the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advises against all but essential travel to the vast majority of countries.

Together they have called for the approach to foreign travel advice to be reviewed, following concerns that this is being used to control the pandemic in the UK as opposed to its actual purpose, which is to assess the risk to travellers in destination. 

In particular, they have asked the Government to urgently review their travel advice to allow for travel to countries where infection rates are comparable to or lower than the UK and have developed public health responses to the pandemic.

Advice against non-essential travel invalidates travel insurance, meaning that many potential business or leisure customers who would be willing to travel because of the new testing regime, will not do so because they will be understandably reluctant to travel against FCDO advice, and without insurance. It also means that tour operators are required to refund customers who have bookings and no longer wish to travel. With only five countries in Europe linked through travel corridors, this is another blow to an industry already reeling from its worst ever crisis, and lessens the impact of the new testing regime.

Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive of Airlines UK said:

“The Government has taken welcome steps over the past couple of weeks to open up international aviation, but airlines will only be able to fully take advantage of the Test to Release scheme - and realise the demand for travel that we know exists - if the travel advice is looked at in parallel. 

“At the moment, this incoherent approach risks adding to the tens of thousands of job losses we have already seen, which have devastated the aviation sector this year.

“This is not about sending people to dangerous places - nobody wants that and the Foreign Office is absolutely right to rule this out. But there are countries on the banned list, that we think could be opened up on either a national or regional basis. 

“Reviewing travel advice will give our beleaguered industry its own much needed ‘shot in the arm’ this winter.”
Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive of ABTA – The Travel Association said:

“While the introduction of Test to Release does open the door for some international travel, the reality is that the Foreign Office still advises against travel to most countries. As long as that remains the case, there is no recovery in sight for the travel industry.  

“Managing public health and putting measures in place to control the spread of the virus must be the Government’s priority, but we have been concerned that Foreign Office travel advice has drifted away from its purpose of protecting the health and safety of travellers in destination. 

“The Foreign Office travel advice should be reviewed urgently so that advice against non-essential travel in relation to COVID-19 is restricted to destinations where it is clear that the risk to travellers is unacceptably high, based on clear and transparent criteria. 

“The travel industry was among the first to be affected by the pandemic and it will be the last to recover. Tens of thousands of jobs have already been lost and viable companies have gone out of business. It is important the Government supports the industry and takes the necessary steps to open up international travel. The UK’s economic recovery will be dependent on having good global connectivity, a strong travel industry is critical to that.” 

Notes for Editors

About Airlines UK

Airlines UK is the trade body for UK registered airlines, with members representing all sectors of the industry. We work with governments, regulators and legislators to promote the interests of UK airlines, and with organisations across the sector to encourage long-term and sustainable growth in aviation.

We formulate opinions and engage with stakeholders on a number of issues, including airport capacity, taxation, sustainable aviation, disruptive passengers and regulation and consumer protection. We are proud members of the Sustainable Aviation, A Fair Tax on Flying and The Sky’s the Limit industry campaigns.

The UK has the third largest aviation network in the world, following the USA and China and our members play a key role in helping maintain this world-class status. In 2017, Airlines UK members employed in excess of 90,000 people, served over 276 million passengers and carried around 1.2 million tonnes of cargo.

  • Airlines contribute enormously to the vibrancy of the UK economy:
  • Direct contribution to GDP of £5.2 billion
  • Overall contribution to GDP of £10.9 billion, when the effects of the supply chain and workforce are added
  • Support around 200,000 jobs
  • Goods worth £116 billion shipped by air between the UK and non-EU countries, representing 35% of the UK’s extra-EU trade by value
  • The express air freight sector facilitates £11 billion of UK exports a year and supports over 38,000 jobs in the exports industry

About ABTA

ABTA has been a trusted travel brand for 70 years. Our purpose is to help our Members to grow their businesses successfully and sustainably, and to help their customers travel with confidence.

The ABTA brand stands for support, protection and expertise. This means consumers have confidence in ABTA and a strong trust in ABTA Members. These qualities are core to us as they ensure that holidaymakers remain confident in the holiday products that they buy from our Members.  

We help our Members and their customers navigate through today's changing travel landscape by raising standards in the industry; offering schemes of financial protection; providing an independent complaints resolution service should something go wrong; giving guidance on issues from sustainability to health and safety and by presenting a united voice to government to ensure the industry and the public get a fair deal. 

ABTA has more than 4,300 travel brands in Membership, providing a wide range of leisure and business travel services, with a combined annual UK turnover of £39 billion. For more details about what we do, what being an ABTA Member means and how we help the British public travel with confidence visit www.abta.com.