---Industry body Airlines UK calls PCR testing expensive and unnecessary

---Thomas Cook says U.K. government's PCR guidelines open up travel for the few, not the many

---EasyJet says guidelines open flying only for the wealthy

 

By Anthony O. Goriainoff

 

Jet2 PLC said Friday that it is suspending all flights and holidays up to and including June 23, after the U.K. government's Global Travel Taskforce Framework failed to provide clarity on the details of restarting global travel.

The U.K. leisure-travel group said the government's framework lacked any rigorous detail about how to get international travel going again, and that it was virtually the same as it was six months ago.

"Following the publication of the framework today, we still do not know when we can start to fly, where we can fly to and the availability and cost of testing. Rather than answering questions, the framework leaves everyone asking more," Chief Executive Steve Heapy said.

The framework proposed by the U.K. government recommends the launch of a new traffic light system--which will categorize countries based on risk alongside the restrictions required for travel--as well as the introduction of travel certification. It will also require all U.K. arrivals to take PCR tests both pre-departure and post-arrival once international travel resumes.

The U.K.'s travel and aviation industry reacted negatively to the framework with easyJet PLC's Chief Executive Johan Lundgren saying that a two-test system was a blow to all travelers wishing to visit family and friends or take a much-needed holiday this summer.

"This risks reversing the clock and making flying only for the wealthy. Moreover it is hugely frustrating that the taskforce has not delivered what the Prime Minister said they should achieve in making this flexible and affordable," Mr. Lundgren said.

His comments were echoed by online travel operator Thomas Cook Group PLC, which said the government's PCR guidelines signaled that travel was opening up initially "for the few not the many."

Thomas Cook CEO Alan French also called on the government to shift its position on the need for PCR tests so as to ensure travel remained accessible to all, and not just a few.

Airlines UK--the industry body representing U.K.-registered carriers--said the framework didn't represent a reopening of travel as promised by ministers.

Its Chief Executive Tim Alderslade criticized the government's insistence on PCR testing--which he called expensive and unnecessary--instead of rapid testing, adding that this would pose an unsustainable burden on passengers, which would make travel unviable and unaffordable for many people.

"All the evidence suggests you can reopen travel safely and in a risk-based manner with more proportionate measures, and we urge government to work with industry on a faster, cheaper and less complex solution." Mr. Alderslade said.

U.K. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the announced framework will help reopen travel safely and sustainably, ensuring the protection of "hard-won achievements on the vaccine rollout."

Jet2 shares at 1410 GMT were down 4.8% at 1,302 pence, with easyJet shares down 1.7% at 975.80 pence. Shares for German travel group TUI were down 5.2%, with Ryanair down 1.2%, Wizz Air down 1.5% and IAG down 1.4%.

 

Write to Anthony O. Goriainoff at anthony.orunagoriainoff@dowjones.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

April 09, 2021 10:43 ET (14:43 GMT)

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