NEWS: Transit in red countries could be exempt, BA & Virgin study shows safe for UK to open to tourism

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Transits through Dubai & Doha etc could be exempt

One of the more ridiculous rules for travel is for countries that are seen as a hub for airlines such as Istanbul, Doha, and the UAE. This has severely limited the flights that UK residents can take when traveling eastbound. All these hubs are in red countries and according to the government they were put on the list for exactly that reason. Even if you just walk from one gate straight to the next you would still have to spend 10 days in a hotel quarantine at a cost of £1,750. To me this would be far more the case for “Amber plus” where those fully vaccinated could quarantine at home (or not at all).

According to the Telegraph last night, the government are finally considering relaxing the rules. 

The Telegraph said “Ministers will also consider plans to allow travellers who transit through red list country hubs including Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Doha, Istanbul and Bahrain to avoid hotel quarantine provided they remain airside when they make their connections.” 

However, it is not clear in what way the rules would be relaxed. We are expecting an announcement regarding the review of the traffic light travel system today or by the end of this week at the latest. This is separate from the review of the countries list which is due next week, although sometimes they do combine the two. 


BA & Virgin study shows safe to allow UK to open

The results of a joint UK proving trial established by Heathrow, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have demonstrated the UK Government can rapidly expand its Amber policy and remove self-isolation for fully vaccinated US and EU citizens arriving into the UK.

Using a selection of US, Caribbean and European routes, the trial successfully proves that airlines and airports can very effectively check a wider range of recognised vaccination statuses for different nationalities – in both paper and digital format – at the point of departure and away from the UK Border, ensuring no further pressure in immigration halls. Verification checks ensured 99% of credentials were authentic with the remaining 1% successfully denied where documentation requirements were not met. Given my experiences of travel within Europe, I can confirm airlines are very strict on paperwork, sometimes to the point of over-caution. The airlines have been successfully checking paperwork and vaccine certificates successfully for many years so I was not surprised at all by the results. 

Under the UK’s current rules, arriving travellers from Amber countries need to have been fully vaccinated as part of the UK’s vaccination programme in order to avoid self-isolation. But this policy excludes travellers who have been fully vaccinated anywhere else in the world.
The restriction is at odds with that of countries such as France, Germany, Greece, Portugal, Cyprus and Malta, which have been welcoming fully vaccinated travellers, including US residents, without the need for self-isolation, from the start of July.

It means that despite the UK’s world-leading vaccine progress, the UK has fallen behind the EU. Latest industry data shows the recovery in US-EU passenger demand at a third of pre-pandemic levels since the exemption was announced for US travellers, compared to US-UK demand which remains at only a fifth of pre-pandemic levels. Trade levels also reflect this trend, with trade routes between the EU and the US now recovered to nearly 50% of pre-pandemic levels while the UK remains at just 8%. It is estimated that the UK is losing over £600 million per day as a result of the loss of inbound tourism. It is expected that the government will announce imminently that it will accept fully vaccinated travellers from the US and EU from as early as next week. 

As part of the 10-day trial, fully vaccinated customers on selected flights from Los Angeles, New York, Montego Bay and Athens agreed to share their vaccination status at their departure airport.Internationally recognised vaccination credentials including CDC cards, New York’s Excelsior Pass and the EU Digital Covid Credential were among the most popular vaccination credentials used by the 250 customers who participated in the trial, alongside NHS certificates.

Sean Doyle, British Airways CEO and Chairman said: “We are confident that this proving trial provides the evidence the Government needs to allow fully vaccinated customers from low-risk countries to enter the UK, knowing it’s possible to do so smoothly and safely. The UK needs to safely re-open its borders as soon as possible to ensure loved ones can reunite, business can thrive and Global Britain is able to take advantage of the UK’s world-leading vaccination programme.”

Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic said: “The UK is already falling behind the US and EU and a continued overly cautious approach towards international travel will further impact economic recovery and the 500,000 UK jobs that are at stake. We urge the UK Government to move the US to the UK’s ‘Green list’ and for the exemption from self-isolation to be extended to all fully vaccinated passengers with WHO-recognised vaccines, beginning with the US and EU. Our proof-of-concept trial demonstrates our readiness as an industry to rapidly operationalise an expanded Amber policy for fully vaccinated travellers, and work with Government and authorities to ensure it is smoothly implemented at pace, supporting the reopening of the Transatlantic corridor.”

Customers in the trial presented a combination of digital or paper-based vaccine credentials for validation, which British Airways customers verified digitally through the VeriFLY app, while Virgin Atlantic customers used a digital uploader tool developed in partnership with Delta Air Lines and backed by TrustAssure™ technology.