UK Says International Travel Won’t Resume Before May 17th

Today, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has revealed his ‘roadmap’ for unlocking the UK. As part of the announcement, he revealed that international travel will not be allowed before May 17th, something that will come as a blow to the already struggling travel industry. The UK plans to review the situation on April 12th, after which time the May 17th date will be officially confirmed.

British Airways Boeing 777-236(ER) G-RAES (1)
It’s not great news for British airlines as international travel remains constrained until mid-May. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Johnson’s roadmap of mixed fortunes

Today, Brits waited anxiously to hear the Prime Minister’s roadmap out of the current lockdown situation. With vaccinations rolling out at pace, everyone wants to know when the kids will go back to school, when they can visit their families and when the pubs will reopen. But perhaps the most pressing decision, certainly for the travel industry, was when international restrictions on movement would be relaxed.

For most, Boris Johnson’s announcement contained some fairly good news. School are set to reopen on March 8th, a relief to working parents currently juggling full-time jobs from home and homeschooling their offspring. Families, too, were thrown a ray of hope, with outside meetings under the rule of six slated to begin from March 29th.

From April 12th, more amenities will begin to open up. Non-essential retail will return, hairdressers, libraries and museums will throw open their doors, and pubs and restaurants will be allowed to serve food and drink in beer gardens. Staycations will be a possibility, as self-contained holidays could be permitted.

easyJet and Ryanair
UK airlines will be forced to continue a skeleton service well into the second quarter. Photo: Getty Images

However, for the travel industry, the announcement had some very unwelcome teeth. International travel will remain banned until at least May 17th, putting an end to hopes and dreams of an Easter getaway and delivering a killer blow to beleaguered airlines, airports and tourism businesses.

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Save Our Summer

The Save Our Summer lobbying group had been campaigning for a May Day reopening of international movements. With travel to and from the UK locked down since January, the industry was pinning its hopes on an early May restart as a worst-case scenario to get back to business. Now, it seems a full 16 additional days of waiting have been forced on the sector, with not even the May 17th date guaranteed.

Johnson said that, in order for the May 17th date to be confirmed, several things needed to happen. Firstly, the vaccine rollout needed to continue at pace. Secondly, there needed to be evidence that vaccines were working. Third, any increase in infection rates must not lead to an increase in hospitalizations. Finally, the assessment of risks should not be changed by the emergence of new variants.

VIrgin Atlantic A350
The date could be moved back, but not brought forward. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

If any of these conditions are not met, the industry could be faced with a further delay to a meaningful restart. In the meantime, triple testing of passengers, quarantine hotels for arrivals from red list countries and 10 day self-isolation at home for all travelers will continue to be required. Only ‘essential journeys’ are currently allowed.

One thing Johnson made abundantly clear was that the date will not be brought forward. Further information will be assessed on April 12th, at which point a final decision on summer holidays abroad will be made.