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Ryanair and MAG challenge UK Government over traffic light travel system

Ryanair Boeing 737-800 at Bristol Airport (Image: TransportMedia UK)

Ryanair Boeing 737-800 at Bristol Airport (Image: TransportMedia UK)

Ryanair has joined forces with Manchester Airports Group (MAG) to mount a legal challenge to the UK Governments’s traffic light travel system during the pandemic.

The system allows for countries to be graded Red, Amber and Green with green being the only colour that doesn’t require a quarantine on return.

But recently the system caused chaos when Portugal, which was on the green list, was suddenly reclassified to amber prompting a raft of cancelled holidays and thousands cutting their holiday short.

The legal challenge is being mounted to gain more transperency into how the government makes decisions on which countries are which colour and is also backed bu major UK airlines, although they aren’t named.

The papers filed at court, which name both the Secretary of State for Health and the Secretary of State for Transport as the Defendants – say the Government has a duty to clearly explain how it makes decisions on categorising countries, and to publish the supporting data, given the “dramatic” impact these decisions have on aviation businesses.

Charlie Cornish, MAG CEO, said: “The whole travel sector recognises the critical importance of protecting public health, and we have facilitated every measure the government has required in response to Covid-19.

That is why we originally welcomed the Global Travel Taskforce’s traffic light system, which the Government said would be based on a ‘a clear and consistent evidence-based approach to facilitate the safe, sustainable and robust return of international travel.

“However, recent developments suggest that the Government is now unwilling to open up international travel by putting low risk countries on the green list. 

“For most countries, the traffic light seems to be stuck on amber for no obvious reason, despite having prevalence rates much lower than the UK.

“The Government is not being open and we simply cannot understand how it is making decisions that are fundamental to our ability to plan, and to giving customers the confidence to book travel ahead.

“These issues must be resolved urgently – and ahead of the review point later this month – to allow everyone to understand how the system operates, and to create the opportunity for international travel to resume to the fullest extent possible over the summer.”

The complainants are seeking a judicial review in order to force the government to reveal how it makes its decisions and based on what data.

Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair Group, added: “The UK’s traffic light system has been a complete shambles from the beginning. 

“This go-stop-go-stop policy is causing untold damage to the aviation industry and frustrating and upsetting millions of British families when they see their holiday plans and family visits disrupted by the Government’s mismanagement of international travel. 

“We call on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to explain the scientific basis behind this system that the Government seem to make up as they go along and to establish a data-driven transparent model that could restore confidence in air travel ahead of the very crucial peak summer months.”

The complainants say they are doing this in order that airlines and airports “can make meaningful representations, to plan, or to scrutinise the legality of the decisions.

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