Missed Opportunity: How Important Are The UK’s Green List Countries?

The travel industry has said that England’s ‘green list’ of countries is “a missed opportunity”. Such countries accounted for less than 6% of all passengers carried from the UK in 2019. Portugal offers the greatest hope, with 56 routes from the UK this summer across 24 UK airports and seven airlines.

British Airways and BA CityFlyer have nine routes between the UK and Portugal – the most important country on the ‘green list’ – this summer. Southampton, Edinburgh, Newcastle, and Manchester to Faro have been added. Photo: Getty Images.

‘Green’ countries are those where returning passengers don’t need to quarantine, although they must still be tested for coronavirus. It comes into effect on May 17th.

While encompassing 12 countries, they collectively have just 5.7% of the UK’s 255 million passengers in 2019, as shown below, according to a combination of UK CAA and booking data. 94.3% of the market – almost everywhere – is on the amber or red lists, meaning passengers must quarantine.

In reality, it’s worse than that. Australia, New Zealand, and Singapore are not presently accepting UK tourists. If these nations are taken out, green countries reduce to just 4.5% of all passengers. The main countries are therefore Portugal, Iceland, Israel, and Gibraltar.

Note: this data is for the UK as a whole and not just England. Source: UK CAA and booking data

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A hard balance to get right

Of course, it must be tough to balance very conflicting groups, each with different priorities. Put too many countries on the green list, and the risk of mutation and rising coronavirus cases – and everything that would come from that – goes up. Yet, there is a greater likelihood of more staycations, so benefiting the country.

Put too few countries on the green list, especially tourist-heavy hotspots given it is the all-important summer season, and the recovery of the broad travel industry is further delayed and the voting public is generally frustrated.

The government will review the categorization of each country every three weeks, with the first due on June 7th. This is likely to see some countries move list, perhaps with more becoming ‘green’ depending on their progress with coronavirus and vaccinations.

easyJet is the leading airline between the UK and Portugal. Photo: Getty Images.

They had 14.6 million passengers

In 2019, important green countries had 14.6 million round-trip passengers, as follows. This includes non-stop, direct, and indirect point-to-point (P2P) travelers only.

  • Portugal: 8.25 million
  • Australia: 2.01 million
  • Israel: 1.29 million
  • Iceland: 1.26 million
  • Singapore: 880,000
  • Gibraltar: 484,000
  • New Zealand: 415,000
  • Brunei: 50,000
TAP is the fifth-largest of seven airlines between Portugal and the UK this summer. Photo:

56 non-stop routes from the UK to Portugal

This summer, there are 56 non-stop routes between the UK and Portugal, analyzing OAG data shows, down by just one over summer 2019 (S19). While the number of routes has barely changed, actual routes have. So too has seat capacity: it is down by 39%. This may improve, given Ryanair is to add 175,000 additional seats over what it had expected, and will undoubtedly be joined by others.

Indeed, British Airways had seven routes between the UK and Portugal in S19, all from London. While its London network has been cut back to five, it has nine routes overall this summer, including offerings from Southampton, Newcastle, Edinburgh, and Manchester to Faro. BA CityFlyer’s Embraer 190s will operate Southampton, Newcastle, and Edinburgh.

There are 56 non-stop routes between the UK and Portugal, involving 24 UK airports. The top-10 routes by available seats are Heathrow-Lisbon; Gatwick-Faro; Manchester-Faro; Luton-Faro; Stansted-Faro; Heathrow-Faro; Bristol-Faro; Luton-Lisbon; Birmingham-Faro; and Machester-Lisbon. Image: OAG.

Seven airlines and 24 UK airports

Seven airlines will operate between the UK and Portugal, down from 12 over S19. The five no longer are familiar names: Flybe, Aer Lingus, Norwegian, Thomas Cook, and Azores Airlines. Azores Airlines will likely resume in due course.

Jet2 has 21 routes to Portugal. Manchester-Faro is top. Photo: Getty Images.

With almost a one-third share of capacity (30.5%), easyJet is top this summer, followed closely by Ryanair (29.0%). Then it is Jet2 (12.1%), BA (11.3%), TAP Air Portugal (8.6%), TUI Airways (4.3%), and Wizz Air UK (4.1%). Only Wizz Air UK has grown due to its route network rising from two to six from new bases at Cardiff and Doncaster.

24 UK airports are connected non-stop to six in Portugal. Heathrow has become number-one, rising from fourth in S19. Meanwhile, the gap between Faro and Lisbon has grown. In S19, Faro had twice the number of seats as Lisbon. Now, it is 135%.

Will you be flying to/from the UK this summer? If so, what are your thoughts about it?