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Jet2 cancels flights until end-June as airlines slam traffic light scheme

The classification of countries as either red, amber or green, though, is expected to revealed in two to three weeks

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Jet2 PLC(LON:JET2) said today it will suspend flights and holidays until at least 23 June due to the lack of clarity from the government over its travel re-opening proposals.

Steve Heapy, Jet2’s chief executive, said it had taken the decision with a 'heavy heart' but the plans released overnight by the government lacked any detail about how to get international travel going again.

“In fact, the framework is virtually the same as six months ago,” he said in a statement.

Customers will get a full refund on cancelled flights while Jet2 said it will also offer advice about booking a getaway later in the year.

The airline’s decision came just hours after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps had suggested people might start thinking about booking holidays again.

Speaking after the release of the Global Travel Taskforce’s review of how travel might resume, Shapps said in an interview with the BBC: “This is the first time I'm able to come on and say I'm not advising against booking foreign holidays”.

The government’s travel plans involve a traffic light system of red, amber and green classifications for countries depending on the perceived Covid-19 risk.

Airlines UK, the industry trade body, also criticised the proposals, saying the scheme was too expensive and not the reopening they were promised.

Even travellers from green countries will require a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test on arrival back in the UK.

That will cost at least £100, an amount which will double for those also having a test before departure.

easyJet plc’s (LON:EZJ) boss Johan Lundgren said it would mean international travel would only be open to those who could afford it.

Airlines UK described the traffic light scheme as a further setback for ‘an industry on its knees’.

“The insistence on expensive and unnecessary PCR testing rather than rapid testing - even for low-risk countries - will pose an unsustainable burden on passengers, making travel unviable and unaffordable for many people," chief executive Tim Alderslade added.

Shapps said that the government was trying to make flying as cheap as possible and was looking at alternatives to PCR tests, which might include a lateral flow option.

“We are committed as a government to work to drive those costs down, and also in time of course review potentially the type of test,” he said in the BBC interview.

The classification of countries as either red, amber or green is expected to be revealed in two to three weeks Shapps said, but it is not clear yet whether fights will be allowed on 17 May.

The taskforce said: "It is too early to predict which countries will be on which list over the summer, and the government continues to consider a range of factors to inform the restrictions placed on them.

"We will set out by early May which countries will fall into which category, as well as confirming whether international travel can resume from 17 May."

Under the traffic light system, travellers might be required to self-isolate, stay in hotels or take compulsory COVID tests depending on which category of country they arrive from.

Countries will be assessed on vaccination progress, infection rates, new variants of the virus and accuracy of testing and tracing data.

The taskforce said it will review further how and when flights and overseas travel can resume at the end of June, July and again in October.

Shares in Jet2 fell 3% to 1,327p. British Airways owner IAG (LON:IAG) fell 0.4% to 213.8p and Easyjet PLC (LON:EZJ) was flat at 993p.

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