Ryanair, Manchester Airport to Challenge U.K. Travel Rules

Ryanair Holdings Plc and the owner of London Stansted airport plan to challenge the U.K.’s travel policy, saying a lack of transparency is undermining consumer confidence and hindering an airline industry recovery from the coronavirus crisis.

The lawsuit set to be filed on Thursday will seek more clarity about how the government assesses the risk of visiting other countries, Manchester Airports Group said. The suit, which has support from other airlines, comes as the U.K. considers revisions that will make travel easier for vaccinated people, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The conflict follows the U.K.’s abrupt decision earlier this month to remove Portugal from the so-called green list of countries residents can visit without quarantine on return. The southern European country was the only significant destination green-lit at the time, and the move forced some travelers to return from holidays on short notice.

Airline shares rose on reports that the U.K. was considering changes to the system. The government may do away with quarantine requirements for vaccinated travelers returning from amber-listed places, a person familiar with the matter said.

Ryanair gained as much as 4.3% in Dublin. Discount rival EasyJet Plc addeds as much as 4.6% and British Airways parent IAG SA gained up to 3.9%.

Despite a rapid vaccine rollout, the U.K. has pulled back on its reopening plans as it fights an outbreak of the delta virus variant that first arose in India. The industry suit will argue that decisions on how countries are categorized have been taken in an opaque manner.

Ryanair, Manchester Airport to Challenge U.K. Travel Rules

Traffic Lights

Under the traffic-light system, travelers from territories that are listed green don’t need to quarantine upon arrival in the U.K., although Covid-19 tests are mandatory. Places listed amber and red require isolation at home or in a hotel.

The U.K. aviation industry has long decried the current system as arbitrary, and sought clearer criteria on categorizations. Carriers are desperately trying to salvage the usually lucrative summer season, after 15 straight months with very little flying.

The U.K.’s caution contrasts with the European Union, which is set to reopen travel within the bloc on July 1, with airlines shifting capacity to the continent as some countries move ahead of the deadline.

Relative to the U.K., “I have pointed out the obvious fact that they are not looking at the data, they are not taking decisions on the data that very clearly says that you can travel safely to these destinations,” EasyJet Chief Executive Officer Johan Lundgren said in an interview this week.

The Telegraph reported earlier that the U.K. is considering scrapping the quarantine requirement for travelers who have received two vaccine doses and are returning from amber-list countries. They would still have to be tested.

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