Great bookings scramble: Travel firms report 3,000% surge in flights to Ibiza, Majorca and Menorca and 1,500% leap in trips to Malta and Madeira as they are added to the green list
- Airlines have scrambled to lay on dozens of extra flights to meet rising demand
- Industry bosses said that more countries should have been put on the green list
- Criticised watchlist which means places can return to amber at very short notice
- Michael O’Leary of Ryanair slammed Grant Shapps for ‘sowing more confusion’
Sun-starved families rushed to book trips abroad yesterday following the expansion of the quarantine-free green list.
Travel firms reported an explosion in demand for destinations including the Balearic Islands, Malta, Madeira and some Caribbean countries.
Airlines scrambled to lay on dozens of extra flights and larger planes to meet demand as bookings for Ibiza, Majorca and Menorca surged 3,000 per cent.
Demand for Malta and Madeira soared by almost 1,500 per cent, according to Jet2.
The package holiday giant has laid on an extra 70 flights to the two islands, including a new route between Stansted and Malta.
Sun-starved families rushed to book trips abroad yesterday following the expansion of the quarantine-free green list. Travel firms reported an explosion in demand for destinations including the Balearic Islands, Madeira, and Malta (pictured)
Demand for Malta and Madeira soared by almost 1,500 per cent, according to Jet2. The package holiday giant has laid on an extra 70 flights to the two islands, including a new route between Stansted and Malta
Jet2 chief Steve Heapy said: ‘We knew there was a lot of pent-up demand out there but the response from our customers has been truly incredible.
‘Bookings to Majorca, Menorca, Ibiza, Malta and Madeira have gone through the roof, which shows just how much UK holidaymakers want to get away.’
BA is scrambling larger Airbus A320 and A321 planes to replace smaller A319s to deal with demand on some of the busiest routes.
EasyJet said it was laying on 50,000 more seats on planes destined for green list destinations over the next few months.
Ryanair announced an extra 200,000 seats for flights to Malta, Ibiza and Majorca in July, August and September. It also triggered a price war by offering tickets from as little as £19.99.
Travel chiefs said however that more countries should have been put on the green list. And they criticised the creation of a watchlist which means destinations can return to amber at very short notice, as with Portugal earlier this month.
Of the 16 destinations added to the green list by ministers on Thursday night, all but one were placed on the watchlist.
Travel chiefs said however that more countries should have been put on the green list. And they criticised the creation of a watchlist which means destinations can return to amber at very short notice, as with Portugal earlier this month
Michael O’Leary of Ryanair said: ‘This announcement is a step in the right direction, adding the Balearics and adding Malta. But it creates more confusion.
Shapps ducks travel question
Grant Shapps repeatedly refused to say whether he would risk booking a holiday to a country on the so-called green ‘watchlist’.
The Transport Secretary risked confusing the public as he dodged the question – only insisting holidaymakers should ‘weigh up’ the decision for themselves.
The Government added 16 destinations to the quarantine-free travel list on Thursday, but 15 are on a so-called watchlist and therefore can move to the more restrictive amber list at short notice.
Mr Shapps was asked three times by Sky News whether he would travel to a ‘watchlist’ destination. He said things may change ‘at short notice’ and holidaymakers should be ‘aware of all the caveats about the risk of things changing [from green to amber], because with this virus we know that happens at quite a lot of regularity’.
‘This amendment to the traffic light system, which is no longer green, amber and red, it’s now green, green watch – whatever the hell that means – and amber and red. [Transport Secretary] Grant Shapps is sowing more confusion by trying to do the right thing but making a mess.’
He said Cyprus, the Canaries and some Greek islands should also have been added to the green list given ‘their Covid case rates are as low as they are in Malta and the Balearics’.
Tim Alderslade of Airlines UK said: ‘The next review must remedy this by putting data ahead of politics and substantially adding to the green list as a matter of urgency.’
There was also fury over ministers’ failure to say when relaxed restrictions for fully vaccinated travellers would be introduced. Under the plans, the double jabbed will be able to dodge quarantine on their return from amber countries.
They would need to take only two tests, one pre-return and another on day two post-arrival, rather than the three required now. The change is expected to come into effect in August, but Mr Shapps will not announce anything concrete until next month.
Tory MP Huw Merriman, chairman of the Commons transport committee, said: ‘If we delay into August that could be the end of summer and for an industry that’s already on its knees and a workforce that’s lost 5,000 workers per month since February 2020 that could be the end of their careers.
‘Where’s the vaccine dividend we were promised?’
The architect of the UK’s first lockdown, Neil Ferguson, backed the easing of travel restrictions for fully-vaccinated holidaymakers, saying it was a ‘sensible approach’ when balancing risks versus benefits.
The Imperial College London professor said such people posed much less risk of importing cases of coronavirus than those who were not jabbed.
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