Ryanair to sue UK over traffic light system for international travel

Airline and three airports file papers to seek clarity over transparency of system

Ryanair Holdings and the owner of three major English airports said on Wednesday they would sue the UK government over the "traffic light" system it has put in place for international travel.

The Irish airline and Manchester Airports Group (MAG) filed High Court papers on Thursday to seek clarity over the transparency of the system, an airport group spokesperson said in an emailed statement. Other airlines are expected to join the legal action.

In April, the British government proposed a traffic light system, with countries falling into red, amber or green categories based on the perceived degree of Covid-19 risk.

Britain removed Portugal – one of the most popular holiday destinations with British travellers – from its quarantine-free travel list earlier in June, leaving fewer than a dozen countries on the "green list" and sparking outrage from embattled airlines.

With just weeks before the peak July and August travel season when most profits are made, the aviation industry is worried about losing another summer to Covid-19 as the British government blocks most travel, meaning more job losses and financial strain.

The industry has repeatedly criticised the government’s traffic light system for international destinations, saying it is unpredictable and doesn’t make scientific sense. It says some low risk countries and islands should be open for travel.

A government spokesperson said it cannot comment on legal proceedings. “We recognise this is a challenging period for the sector, as we seek to balance the timely reopening of international travel while safeguarding public health and protecting the vaccine roll-out,” the government said in a statement.

The court papers argue that the British government should clearly explain how it makes decisions on categorising countries, given the “dramatic” impact these decisions have on the aviation industry.

“The current opaque way that decisions are being made is undermining consumer confidence to book summer holidays and makes it impossible for airports, airlines and other travel companies to plan for the recovery of international travel,” the companies said in a statement to Reuters.

The aviation industry had been counting on Britons to be at the forefront of the resumption in travel, given the country has one of the fastest vaccine rollouts in the world.

Britain will provide an update on its list of destinations which do not require quarantine on June 24th. The news was first reported by The Daily Telegraph on Wednesday. – Reuters