Covid: Travellers recall ‘stressful’ process of pre-travel tests
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In an open letter companies including BA, easyJet and Ryanair branded the approach taken by the Government as “haphazard” and “disproportionate”. Under the new rules unveiled last week travellers over the age of 12 will need to show proof of a negative Covid test before travelling to the UK, even if fully vaccinated. Upon arrival travellers must self-isolate until receiving a negative day two PCR test. Today’s letter, co-ordinated by Airlines UK, claims travel has been “singled out” adding that: “Pre-departure and upon-arrival testing clearly add very little value to our Covid protection, but unnecessarily disrupt Christmas for families as well as businesses while severely damaging the UK travel industry.”
The industry is now concerned customer confidence will be knocked during the key Christmas and New Year booking season, which accounts for up to 30 percent of tickets sold.
Describing customers and travel firms as “sincerely let down” the letter calls for a more “pragmatic” and evidence-led approach” citing the fact the UK is the only country to require pre-departure and post-arrival PCR tests regardless of vaccination status.
PCR tests for travel have been frequently criticised over high costs.
While the Government had promised to crack down on high charges airlines have called out a lack of action, claiming some companies have been charging up to £399 for tests.
Last week former chair of the Competition and Markets Authority Lord Tyrie described PCR tests as a “rip-off jungle” telling the BBC the continued issues with costs was “carelessness”.
Those signing the letter, which also includes Virgin Atlantic and Tui, are calling for all emergency testing of fully vaccinated passengers to be removed at the next formal review on December 20.
They also ask for “bespoke economic support measures” for the industry which supports over 500,000 jobs across the country.
Airlines have been struggling since the emergence of Omicron with increased uncertainty over travel.
BA operator IAG has seen its share price fall over 18 percent in the last month while easyJet’s share price is down just over 14 percent over the same period despite reporting an optimistic outlook for next year.
Over the weekend it was reported bosses from BA, Virgin Atlantic and easyJet were asking the Treasury to extend Covid loans to help get them through the current period.
The loans are currently due at the end of next year however ongoing pressures mean firms are anticipating a much longer recovery time.
Ministers are thought to be considering plans this week to scrap quarantine for red list countries in favour of allowing self-isolation at home for fully vaccinated travellers.
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The current policy was a target of criticism in the airlines’ letter, saying: “We have also seen immediate problems with red list arrivals, with many customers booking hotels which either were not ready or had been double booked, requiring them to rebook and pay again.
“Many people are stranded abroad through no fault of their own, due to a policy that cannot be executed properly.”
Express.co.uk has contacted the Department for Transport for further comment.
The firms involved in the joint letter declined to comment further.
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