JET2 has cancelled all flights and holidays up to June 23 because of the government’s "lack of clarity" over when Brits will be able to travel again.
The move will plunge thousands of Brits' holiday plans into chaos – just hours after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said people could 'start to think' about booking foreign trips.
A furious Steve Heapy, CEO of the travel giant, hit out, telling Sun Online Travel: “We still don’t know when we can start to fly, where we can fly to and the availability and cost of testing."
“The government has said it will release details of which countries will be classified as green, amber or red in a few weeks time but that’s just not good enough.
“We can’t run an airline like that. Pilots need to undergo training, aircraft need to be serviced and we need to recruit seasonal staff.
“It’s simply not sustainable for us a business to start planning for a total return to travel without knowing when a country will open up or even where we can fly.”
Despite the government’s Global Travel Taskforce reporting back today with its framework for the restart of international travel, the absence of detail as to where Brits will be able to travel and when has forced them to cancel all holidays until late June.
The update includes a new traffic light scheme which will class countries as either green, amber, or red, depending on the state of the pandemic and rate of vaccinations – and is hoped that the US, Gibraltar, Malta and much of the Caribbean could be tipped for green status.
Spain and Italy may also be able to join from June if their jabs programmes progress well – however, none of these will be revealed for another three weeks, Mr Shapps stressed.
Mr Heapy added: “I am very disappointed. The task force has taken five weeks to report back and not given us any more detail than we already knew. The traffic light system is practically the same as last year – but with added costs.”
For holidaymakers with a Jet2 flight or trip booked to depart before June 23, Mr Heapy said: “We will automatically cancel their booking with a full refund, and our team of travel experts will be in touch to help them to book their summer getaway for later in the year.
“We are trying to run a business so that we can take customers away, but we need the Government to provide us with clarity to achieve this.
Mr Heapy also criticised the cost of testing, saying: “Even travel to a ‘green’ country is going to cost at least £500 for a family of four.
“That’s just too much. We can’t have international travel just reserved for the rich. When the government does announce where we can go it can’t just be the trophy routes like New York and Singapore, it should be to our popular holiday destinations too.
“The government are in danger of making travel out of reach for working class people. Unless they make testing affordable holidays are not going to be possible apart from the rich or business people.”
Other airlines have warned that even low-risk "green list" countries will still be too expensive for families as well.
Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines UK, said: "This does not represent a reopening of travel as promised by Ministers, and 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."
Thomas Cook said they were "in talks" with Covid test providers to offer discounts with CEO Alan French warnings the pricey tests would make holidays "inaccessible" to too many travellers.
EasyJet boss Johan Lundgren warned that it would make "flying only for the wealthy" and was a blow to budget travellers.
Mr Shapps said he was working on how they can drive down the price of the return PCR tests, saying: "I've been having a look at the privately provided tests available and it is the case that these tests are still very expensive.
"I'm looking elsewhere in the world, I see that there are much cheaper options available, so I will be working with the travel industry and the private testing market to drive those costs down before international travel reopens."
He said one idea is for the Government to provide holidaymakers with cheaper lateral flow tests before they travel – which they can then use abroad before getting on the plane.
Those returning from amber countries would have to quarantine at home and take two PCR tests at a cost of over £200.
And people arriving from red list states would be put into hotel quarantine, which costs £1,750 per person.
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