Major Airlines Slam UK COVID-19 Traffic Light System

Major airlines in the UK and across Europe have slammed the UK’s traffic light travel system. Citing inconsistencies and confusion, airlines are demanding transparency and clear metrics to reach the green list. Currently, all arrivals from amber list countries (which includes almost the entirety of Europe) must quarantine for 10 days and take two PCR tests that can cost hundreds of pounds per traveler.

easyJet and Ryanair
Airlines and airports have spoken out against the UK’s confusing and complicated traffic light system for summer travel. Photo: Getty Images


Ryanair and the Manchester Airports Group has sued the UK government for its border reopening policies. The pair are taking aim at the new ‘traffic light system,’ which applies testing and quarantine based on a country’s health situation. The new system has seen only a few countries reach the ‘green list,’ with only one or two actually open to British travelers.

However, the government’s decision to pull Portugal off the green list has caused a flurry of anger in the travel industry. Airlines are now demanding transparency in how the UK chooses its green list countries. Ryanair, Virgin Atlantic, and British Airways are part of this legal challenge, which could be heard early next week, according to The Telegraph.

Major Airlines Slam UK COVID-19 Traffic Light System
As Europeans flock to holiday destinations, Britons have found themselves under many onerous restrictions. Photo: Getty Images

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has been an outspoken critic of the UK government’s handling of the restrictions. He is now calling for transparency, saying,

“[We are] trying to force the Government to at least either a) be more transparent [over the traffic light system], b) publish what exactly the thresholds are at which international travel … will be allowed to restart. Or c) get some injunctive relief against the Government generally on the back of vaccines that says the longer lockdown is restricting people’s freedom of movement.”

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The UK government is under fire from other airlines too. easyJet, Jet2, and Manchester Airports have called out the UK for not adding the Balearic Islands to the green list, according to the BBC. Home to Majorca, the islands have seen hundreds of thousands of EU tourists arrive in recent days, leaving UK travelers behind.

However, the government has justified its stance, saying the traffic light system is meant to protect against variants. Moreover, health officials have highlighted that mass travel could increase the rate of transmission and endanger the vaccine rollout.

Major Airlines Slam UK COVID-19 Traffic Light System
While almost 400,000 Germans arrived in Majorca in May, only 5,800 Britons did. Photo: Getty Images

The next traffic light update will likely come in late June, just as the holiday season enters its full spring. Airlines will be desperately hoping to see some mainland European destinations (minus Gibraltar) added, as travel numbers remain low.

However, as cases surge in the UK and the vaccine campaign enters its final stage, caution might be key. For now, the pressure from the travel industry is on to let UK residents travel abroad alongside their EU peers.

What do you think about the future of the traffic light system? Will we see more green list countries soon? Let us know in the comments!