Mark Tanzer, ABTA Chief Executive, was quoted as telling Travel Weekly: “The government position and our position is that Foreign Office [FCDO] advice is the ultimate reference for whether or not you can travel. Despite the confusing messages from the government, that is the benchmark.”
UK travel restrictions lifted on Monday 17th May, with numerous countries including Israel, Portugal and Australia being placed on the country’s ‘green list’. However, many travellers also booked trips to destinations on the ‘amber list’, causing mayhem at airports, and undermining pandemic prevention measures that have been in place since 2020.
Responding to this situation, Secretary of State for Health & Social Care Matt Hancock told MPs there must be ‘an exceptional reason’ for travel to a destination designated ‘amber’ under the traffic light system. “The government advice is very clear. People should not travel to amber list countries for a holiday.”
Airlines operate flights to ‘amber’ destinations
But, as Travel Weekly has pointed out, the FCDO may advise against travel to most countries not the UK’s ‘green list’, but it does not advise against all: countries such as the Canaries, Crete, and Corfu, which are on the ‘amber list’, are not advised against travelling to by the FCDO. And this, it appears, is causing some confusion among travel industry associations.
“The regulations don’t say it’s illegal to travel to amber, so the government should not be suggesting it is,” said Airlines UK Chief Executive Tim Alderslade. While Tui UK was quoted as saying: “Where borders are open and FCDO advice allows travel, we’ll operate to those destinations.” Which Tui Chief Executive Fritz Joussen followed up with: “If a customer comes to the conclusion [that] they want to go, who are we to say no? Amber puts a lot of obligations on the customer. When it is amber, you have a choice.”
A bad reputation for travel insurance
As Alan Bowen, legal advisor to the Association of Atol Companies (AAC), noted, travel insurance is still valid if FCDO does not advise against travel to the destination in question (“Insurers have always taken the view of the Foreign Office,” he told Travel Weekly) – and, as we at ITIJ know, some travel insurers are even offering specialised cover options for travelling against FCDO advice. But, Bowen was also quick to convey his distrust of the travel insurance industry: “Insurers will use every tool in the book to avoid liability,” he warned, according to Travel Weekly.