Prices to would-be Green List destinations soar

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Britons were being urged to book holidays to the likes of Malta, Gibraltar, Portugal and Israel before prices rise tonight when holidaymakers finally discover where they can visit this summer without quarantining.

A big reveal on ‘green list’ countries is expected in a Downing Street press conference led by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps at 5pm, at which he is expected to confirm that the international travel ban will end on May 17.

Flights to popular Portuguese resorts have more than doubled in price for May 17 following suggestions the European holiday hotspot may be among a ‘handful’ of destinations to immediately offer quarantine-free travel.

Other places tipped to make the first ‘green list’ are Malta, Iceland, Israel and Gibraltar. But most of Europe – including France, Spain, Greece and Italy – is expected to be ‘amber’ in a blow to eager travellers.

Travel experts said today that Malta, Gibraltar, Portugal and Israel are among the countries which eager travellers should book before 5pm, but note that they will have to pay for Covid-19 tests if they have not received both jabs.

Ministers are meeting this morning to sign off the ‘traffic light’ allocations. A Government source told MailOnline that Portugal would ‘probably’ be on the ‘green list’ – but along with only a ‘tiny’ number of other destinations.

They suggested it is unlikely that lower-infection islands will be split off from mainlands in the initial allocations, although this could happen by June.

Paul Charles, chief executive of The PC Agency travel consultancy, told MailOnline today: ‘There will be higher prices as demand goes up – with fewer flights, consumers are battling for fewer seats to destinations as they open up on the green list.

‘While it’s tempting to get away as soon as possible, especially to see family or fiancees, I’d be booking for mainland Europe, Turkey, USA for end of June onwards. They are likely to be added in the next wave of green list countries opened up.

‘For those who simply can’t wait, then the likes of Malta, Gibraltar, Portugal, Israel will be the ones to book before 5pm. But bear in mind you will face extra costs for testing if you haven’t been fully jabbed.’

Among the countries tipped to make the first 'green list' are Malta, Iceland, Israel, Gibraltar and possibly Portugal. Pictured: Tel Aviv in Israel

Among the countries tipped to make the first ‘green list’ are Malta, Iceland, Israel, Gibraltar and possibly Portugal. Pictured: Tel Aviv in Israel

Asked about by how much prices could rise, Mr Charles said it ‘depends on the routes and airlines’, adding: ‘But prices surge when the demand rockets and the airlines’ automatic revenue management systems kick in.

‘You can see prices double in some cases for the few remaining seats, but there are still many, many bargains out there.’

Flight prices to ‘green and amber list countries’ ahead of announcement:

Green list countries:

Portugal (Lisbon):

– BA flight from Heathrow for May 17: £324

– Ryanair flight from Stansted for May 19: £262

Malta:

– BA flight from Heathrow for May 17: £130

– Ryanair flight from Stansted for June 4: £94 

Israel:

– BA flight from Heathrow to Tel Aviv for May 17: £210

– Ryanair (N/A)

Gibraltar:

– BA flight from Heathrow for May 17: £165

– easyJet flight from Gatwick for May 17: £94

Jamaica:

– BA Heathrow to Kingston for July: £599

– Budget flights (N/A)

Barbados:

– BA flight from Heathrow for May 18: £393

– Budget flight with £370

Grenada:

– Indirect BA flight from Heathrow for May 17: £1,687

Morocco:

– BA flight from Heathrow for May 29: £443

Amber list countries: 

Spain

– BA flight from Heathrow to Barcelona for May 17: £113.

– Ryanair from Stansted: £13

Turkey

– Pegasus flight from Stansted to Dalaman on May 23: £124

Greece

– BA from Heathrow to Athens for May 18: £327

– Ryanair from Stansted to Athens for May 19: £126

France

– BA flight from Heathrow to Nice for May 18: £236

– Ryanair from Stansted to Marseille on June 1: £20

Cyprus

– BA flight from Heathrow on May 19: £95

– Ryanair flight from Stansted for May 21: £83

Iceland:

– BA flight from Heathrow to Reykjavik for June 25: £67

– Ryanair (N/A)

It is hoped many countries could turn green by the end of June as the traffic light system is reviewed.

The initial ‘green list’ – understood to contain less than a dozen destinations – will be finalised by Cabinet ministers this morning before being unveiled at a Downing Street briefing led by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.

But despite insiders warning there will be a ‘very small’ number of countries subject to the loosest rules when the ban on non-essential travel lifts, demand for flights to possible ‘green list’ nations has surged.

British Airways is charging £530 for a flight from Heathrow to the Algarve, Portugal, on May 17, compared to £234 for passengers flying the same route two days earlier.

A Ryanair flight from Stansted to Portugal’s capital Lisbon on the day overseas leisure travel restarts is £152, compared with £15 on May 16. EasyJet is charging £234 for a flight from Luton to the Algarve on May 17, but just £73 the following day.

Airlines increase prices in line with demand, indicating that many holidaymakers are hoping Portugal is categorised as a low-risk destination for coronavirus.

England will adopt its traffic light system when the travel ban lifts on May 17, with destinations placed on green, amber and red lists depending on the perceived threat of Covid infection from abroad.

The ‘green list’ – deemed the most low risk –  has been drawn up based on data about the global Covid picture from advisory body The Joint Biosecurity Centre.

But holidaymakers returning from these countries will still be required to take two tests, one within three days of flying back to the UK and another within 48 hours of arrival. This will apply to vaccinated as well as unvaccinated passengers.

Holidaymakers from amber countries will have to take a second post-arrival test on day eight as well as self-isolate at home for ten days.

Arrivals from red countries will have to quarantine in hotels at their own expense for 11 nights.

Assessments will be based on a range of factors, including the proportion of a country’s population that has been vaccinated, rates of infection, emerging new variants, and the country’s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.

There is speculation the ‘green list’ may feature destinations such as Malta, Gibraltar and Israel, while the Maldives, the Seychelles and several Caribbean islands look set to miss out.

Portugal has been ‘borderline’ for most of the week but Downing Street insiders were last night confident it will be included, the Times reported.

Whitehall sources say the green list could also contain several ‘obscure places that people won’t realistically visit’.

Most of Europe – including including France, Spain, Greece and Italy – is expected to be ‘amber’.

However, it is hoped many popular holiday destinations will be added to the ‘green list’ by the end of June as the traffic light list is reviewed. One source said ‘things are going in the right direction’ for this to happen.

No plans for the resumption of foreign holidays have been announced by the UK’s devolved administrations.

The Prime Minister has been under pressure to accelerate the resumption of foreign travel due to the success of Britain’s vaccination programme, with more than half of the UK’s population now inoculated.

Former ministers yesterday urged Mr Johnson to ensure ‘as many holiday destinations as possible’ are placed on the initial ‘green list.’

David Jones, the former Secretary of State for Wales, said: ‘Aviation and the travel industry are major elements of the country’s economy and should be supported by speeding up the lifting of travel restrictions.

People walk outside St John's Co-Cathedral in Valletta, as Malta may be one of the countries added to the 'green list' today

People walk outside St John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta, as Malta may be one of the countries added to the ‘green list’ today

The list will be finalised by Cabinet ministers this morning before being unveiled at a Downing Street briefing in the afternoon led by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. Pictured: Gibraltar

The list will be finalised by Cabinet ministers this morning before being unveiled at a Downing Street briefing in the afternoon led by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. Pictured: Gibraltar

Tourists sunbathing in Praia do Camilo, Lagos, Faro district, Algarve, Portugal

Tourists sunbathing in Praia do Camilo, Lagos, Faro district, Algarve, Portugal

Mr Shapps is expected to reveal the long-awaited traffic light system for travel tomorrow

 Mr Shapps is expected to reveal the long-awaited traffic light system for travel tomorrow

‘The government should also — consistent with safety — ensure that as many holiday destinations as possible are put on the green list.  British people are keen travellers and the time has come to restore their freedom.’

British tourists won’t need tests from May 17, says Gibraltar

British holidaymakers were today handed a much-needed boost after Gibraltar confirmed UK tourists will not need to be tested for Covid-19 following May 17.

Chief minister Fabian Picardo said the Rock will offer a ‘great British staycation in the Mediterranean’ after travel restrictions are eased in Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown.

The British Overseas Territory, close to the south coast of Spain, became the first nation to fully vaccinate its entire adult population in March.

Gibraltar is home to 33,000 people and has had 4,286 cases as well as 94 deaths.

Mr Picardo told Sky News: ‘Gibraltar has an open frontier with Spain and the rest of the European Union, and we don’t require PCR testing for those who come across our land frontier.

‘We therefore don’t think it would be appropriate for us to require PCR testing of those who are coming from the United Kingdom, which has a higher vaccinated population and a lower incidence of Covid than the rest of the European Union.’

Ex-transport minister Theresa Villiers added: ‘The green list needs to be based on a rigorous scrutiny of the evidence to ensure we don’t jeopardise the huge success of the vaccination programme.

‘But as popular holiday destinations see case numbers falling, there should be some headroom to start to safely lift travel restrictions.’

Earlier this week, Mr Johnson warned that putting lots of countries on the travel ‘green list’ from May 17 could risk a jump in cases from abroad.

The Prime Minister has maintained Downing Street will be ‘cautious’, with Health Secretary Matt Hancock and chief medical officer Chris Whitty said to be among those pushing for quarantine-free states to be kept to a minimum.

‘We do want to do some opening up on May 17 but I don’t think that the people of this country want to see an influx of disease from anywhere else,’ Mr Johnson said on Monday.

‘I certainly don’t and we have got to be very, very tough, and we have got to be as cautious as we can, whilst we continue to open up.’

Mr Johnson’s comments were met with scrutiny by travel experts, who claimed there is ‘no danger of an influx of disease’ into Britain considering the proposed precautions.

Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy The PC Agency, told MailOnline: ‘The reason why testing has to be done by every passenger pre-departure to the UK, and after arriving here, is to help weed out any infections or variants. There have been very few cases or variants in recent weeks since these measures were put in place.

‘The Prime Minister needs to focus on protecting hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk in the travel and tourism sector, and open up overseas travel safely, and progressively, from May 17. ‘

Meanwhile, Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association, called on destinations used by business travellers not to be overlooked.

He said: ‘The BTA is watching closely for the green and amber traffic light countries.

The Prime Minister has been under pressure to accelerate the resumption of foreign travel due to the success of Britain's vaccination programme. Pictured: Boris Johnson on Monday

The Prime Minister has been under pressure to accelerate the resumption of foreign travel due to the success of Britain’s vaccination programme. Pictured: Boris Johnson on Monday

Former ministers yesterday urged Mr Johnson to ensure 'as many holiday destinations as possible' are placed on the initial 'green list'

 Former ministers yesterday urged Mr Johnson to ensure ‘as many holiday destinations as possible’ are placed on the initial ‘green list’

‘Whilst we all look forward to a holiday, it’s vital for the UK economy that business travel destinations are included on the green list as soon as it is safe to do so.’

Tui will offer £20 Covid tests for holidaymakers travelling to green list

Tui will offer coronavirus tests for a fraction of standard prices to ‘make travel a possibility’ once restrictions are lifted on May 17. The UK’s largest holiday company said its cheapest package – made up of a lateral flow test and PCR test – will be available for just £20. The tests will be requirements for people returning to or visiting England from green list destinations under the Government’s traffic light system for international travel from May 17.

Passengers from green list countries – expected to include Malta, Jamaica and Portugal – must get a lateral flow or PCR test no more than 72 hours before flying into the UK. They must also get a PCR test once they have landed. The Government is set to provide free rapid Covid test kits to those travelling abroad so they can avoid the hassle of finding one before they returned, Whitehall sources claimed. But arrivals would still have to pay at least £50 each for the gold-standard PCR test on landing. The package from TUI would cover both tests.

Earlier this week a shift in Government travel advice gave an apparent a hint of what destinations could be on the upcoming ‘green list.’

Tourists visiting a number of popular summer hotspots do not face a level of risk for coronavirus that is ‘unacceptably high’, according to the latest updates from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).

The FCDO is not advising against non-essential travel to Portugal (excluding the Azores), Spain’s Canary Islands or the Greek islands of Rhodes, Kos, Zante, Corfu and Crete.

There is no guarantee that the ‘green list’ will match the FCDO’s travel advice, but the latter indicates the Government’s current evaluation of the risks to tourists.

Meanwhile Tui, the UK’s largest holiday company, announced it will offer customers coronavirus tests for a fraction of standard prices.

The cheapest package – aimed at people returning from green destinations – will be available for just £20, and consist of a lateral flow test and PCR test.

PCR tests alone typically cost £120 each, although several travel companies offer them for £60.

Tui said it is ‘subsidising the cost of testing to help customers travel again this summer’.

There are fears that testing requirements will make summer holidays unaffordable for many families by adding hundreds of pounds to the cost of a trip.

Rory Boland, editor of magazine Which? Travel, said the announcement of £20 packages is ‘great news – but only for Tui customers’.

He urged the Government to ‘reduce the cost of testing across the board, rather than have consumers rely on a system that is currently fragmented and flawed’.

British Airways owner calls on Government to be ‘ambitious’ on travel corridors

Luis Gallego, the boss of British Airways owner IAG

The UK Government must act with ambition and announce travel corridors as soon as possible to help the travel industry revive, according to the boss of British Airways owner IAG.

Chief executive Luis Gallego added: ‘We consider now is the time to start travelling again.

‘We believe that the Government needs to be a bit ambitious in getting global travel back on track and bring the benefits of all the efforts that the Government and people have done with the vaccination rollout.

‘I think they need to recognise that people who are vaccinated or have been tested can travel without restrictions.’

His comments come as the business revealed it continued to rack up huge losses in the first three months of the year.

Bosses at the airline, which also owns Aer Lingus and Iberia, said the firm sunk to a pre-tax loss of 1.22 billion euros (£1.1 billion) in the first three months of the year.

Passenger numbers remain at record low levels due to the pandemic, at just 19.6% of the pre-Covid levels in 2019 and the second quarter of the year is at just 25% due to continued uncertainty.

IAG remains financially stable, bosses added, with a new 1.2 billion euro (£1 billion) bond heavily oversubscribed and a new three year 1.76 billion dollar (£1.27 billion) credit facility agreed with lenders but future cash raises could be needed.

Cargo-only flights increased from 969 in the final quarter of 2020 to 1,306 in the first three months of the year.

Mr Gallego added: ‘We’re ready to fly, but Government action is needed through four key measures:

‘Travel corridors without restrictions between countries with successful vaccination rollouts and effective testing such us the UK and the US.

‘Affordable, simple and proportionate testing to replace quarantine and costly, multi-layered testing.

‘Well-staffed borders using contactless technology including e-gates to ensure a safe, smooth flow of people and frictionless travel.

‘Digital passes for testing and vaccination documentation to facilitate international travel.’

Current Covid rules in England say that non-essential travel can resume on May 17 and an announcement on international travel is expected within days.

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