Government accused of ‘sowing confusion’ over travel rules as airline boss slams ‘variant scariant’

Travel firms say the limited expansion of the green list for holiday destinations has sparked a wave of new bookings, despite renewed industry criticism of the government’s handling of coronavirus restrictions.

Michael O’Leary, chief executive of Ryanair, accused Transport Secretary Grant Shapps of “sowing confusion” as he told Sky News there was no science-led approach to COVID-19 travel rules that have crippled the industry.

He demanded to know why the Greek islands were not included on the green list and slammed the creation of a green watchlist – designed to give notice of a possible threat to unrestricted breaks at a particular destination – saying of the traffic light adjustment: “whatever the hell that means”.

Spain’s Balearic islands and Madeira, an autonomous region of Portugal, are on the UK government green list.

Mr O’Leary also criticised Germany’s Angela Merkel for what he said was a “somewhat stupid idea” that people arriving in the EU from the UK should go into quarantine over Delta variant fears.

“The UK is the most vaccinated country in Europe,” he said, adding there was “far too much of this variant scariant”.


The airline boss confirmed the UK government’s process for deciding holiday barriers would continue to be the subject of a legal challenge, despite plans to open up more holiday hotspots to the double-vaccinated.

Operators reported a mixed early customer response to the updated green list – containing 16 new destinations including Malta and due to take effect from Wednesday – with the wider industry grumbling that restrictions remained too harsh.

More on Covid-19 COVID-19: England’s R number remains unchanged at between 1.2 and 1.4 Malta says Britons without two jabs have to quarantine on arrival – after UK puts country on green travel list COVID-19: UK reported 35,204 cases of Delta variant in a week, Public Health England says A&E departments ‘overwhelmed’ by children with mild fevers, creating ‘winter in June’ for NHS COVID-19: All over-18s in England urged to ‘grab a jab’ at hundreds of walk-in vaccination sites this weekend COVID-19: Around 600 million lateral flow tests may have gone unused, says watchdog

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O’Leary: Holiday travel lists ‘confusing’

Ryanair announced 200,000 extra seats from the UK to Malta, Ibiza & Palma during July, August & September.

EasyJet responded to Thursday evening’s update by launching more than 50,000 extra seats and more holidays to those new green list destinations, saying it had seen a “significant spike” in bookings.

British Airways said it had witnessed a 455% increase in green list searches on Thursday – mainly for Barbados.

Chief executive of Hays Travel, Dame Irene Hays, told Sky’s Ian King Live she was “encouraged” by the limited reopening and they had already taken a number of bookings on Friday including a “few” for the Caribbean.

She said there was an incredible amount of forward bookings already for this summer with Spain accounting for almost a quarter of them between July and September – followed by Greece.

Thomas Cook chief executive Alan French, who was also on the programme, said it had seen a “huge” lift in inquiries and bookings.

However, both said it was understandable that people remained cautious given the signal from the authorities that rules can change at any time.

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Shapps: Holidays different to old days

Consumer groups urged those booking breaks abroad to ensure they had appropriate travel insurance rather than basic cover.

Rory Boland, the editor of Which? Travel, said: “Restrictions around international travel are changing regularly and when they do, the cost to holidaymakers is significant.

“Most providers will not pay refunds if a country is moved from green to amber, and ‘free’ amendments are often anything but, with many companies requiring significant notice of any changes and bookings for new dates usually costing hundreds of pounds.

“Travel insurance is also unlikely to pay out in these circumstances.

“It is only advisable to book if you are able to do 14 days’ quarantine, can be flexible about destination and dates, and book with a provider that guarantees refunds in the event of traffic light changes or quarantine requirements.”