As the Government gets set to announce the easing of restrictions on air travel a group of MPs is calling for caution – meaning Liverpool John Lennon Airport faces an anxious wait. Tony McDonough reports
Liverpool John Lennon Airport faces an anxious wait this week to see if the Government gives the go-ahead for a return to foreign travel.
It is expected the Government will announce this week the easing of COVID-19 restrictions from May 17 that will allow people to fly to foreign destinations. Regional airports such as Liverpool can ill-afford another ruined summer season.
But an all-party parliamentary group on COVID-19 said restrictions should be kept in place beyond that date. It added that airports are a “breeding ground” for the virus with arrivals mixing together.
Airports and airlines are expecting a a traffic light system of rules is going to be introduced with countries classed as green, amber or red. Travellers to green countries will not need to isolate on their return, but they will need to take a COVID test.
Arrivals from amber countries will need to quarantine, while red-list countries have the strictest rules, with only UK or Irish nationals allowed to return. They must pay to stay in a Government quarantine hotel.
Countries such as Spain, France, Greece, Portugal and Cyprus are getting ready to welcome tourists following a year when their visitor economies were devastated. The European Commission is recommending opening up to travellers who have received both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
One of Liverpool’s main airlines is easyJet. Late last week, the carrier’s chief executive, Johan Lundgren, said there was no reason for the Government not to reopen air travel to most of Europe.
He added: “EasyJet believes that a green country should be one where unrestricted travel does not pose a risk to the NHS or the success of the vaccination programme. On this basis easyJet believes that much of Europe should be classed as green on the Government’s framework.
“This is because vaccination is a game changer – the success of the UK vaccine roll out has broken the link between cases and hospitalisation and by May and June we expect the situation to progressively improve because vaccination rates.”
Its main rival at Liverpool, Ryanair, has also been pushing hard for the reopening of air travel across Europe. In the last few months it has added four new summer routes out of Liverpool, the latest being to Zadar in Croatia.
Paul Winfield, Liverpool John Lennon Airport’s director of aviation development, said “We continue to work with our airline partners to ensure that once international travel opens up again, the region’s travellers have some great destinations to be able to fly to. Ryanair’s commitment to Liverpool is great news for travellers from across the region.”
However, the group of more than 60 MPs and peers said the Government should restrict flights to essential travel only. It has published a list of recommendations to make airports safer, including making sure arrival halls have enough space to social distance.
Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, who chairs the group of MPs, said a return to normal was “too risky”. She added: “It is staggering that the Government is even contemplating encouraging overseas holidays when airports are already struggling to keep the virus and new variants at bay.”