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U.K. Government Cuts Travel ‘Red List’ to Only 7 Countries

A Virgin Atlantic 787-9 departing London Heathrow. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

In the most dramatic indication of the reopening of international travel since the introduction of pandemic restrictions, the U.K. government announced that only seven countries will remain on the ‘red list’. The remaining countries that will require hotel quarantine upon arrival back into England are Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Haiti, Panama, Peru and Venezuela. The devolved nations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland make their own decisions in regard to health and travel so these relaxed restrictions may not apply for arrivals into these countries.

According to the U.K. government, all other countries not on the ‘red list’ will have ‘rest of world’ status and as such arriving passengers will be subject to less restrictive measures based on their vaccination status. These measures are: ‘Eligible fully vaccinated passengers and eligible under 18s returning from countries and territories, not on the red list, can do so with just a day 2 test. Other passengers who are not fully vaccinated with an authorized vaccine returning from a non-red destination must still take a pre-departure test, a day 2 and day 8 test and complete 10 days self-isolation (with the option of Test to Release on day 5).’

After earlier controversy regarding the exclusion of African and South American countries from vaccination status recognition, there have been significant changes for popular destinations. From 4 am Monday 11 October those eligible travelers vaccinated in South Africa, Brazil in addition to Hong Kong, India and over 30 other countries will have their vaccination status recognized when arriving in England.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said: “With (English) half-term (school holidays) and winter sun around the corner, we’re making it easier for families and loved ones to reunite, by significantly cutting the number of destinations on the red list, thanks in part to the increased vaccination efforts around the globe. Restoring people’s confidence in travel is key to rebuilding our economy and leveling up this country. With fewer restrictions and more people traveling, we can all continue to move safely forward together along our pathway to recovery.”

Dale Keller the chief executive of BAR UK (the Board of Airline Representatives) the airline trade association with over 70 member airlines in the U.K. cited the announcement as a ‘step-change in risk management for international travel’. In a series of tweets Mr Keller said that “these are really significant changes and growing confidence that the pandemic phase is finally ending.”

Airlines U.K. the industry body representing UK-registered carriers issued a statement that said: “We welcome the significant reduction of the Red list as another positive step towards normalizing air travel and reopening our sector. This builds on recent changes that have seen travel to many more countries become easier and cheaper for passengers, the progress we hope towards removing all test requirements for the fully vaccinated as soon as possible.”

However, Airlines U.K. cited concern that there needed to be further clarity with regard to the changes to Covid testing associated with travel. Previously announced a relaxation on the requirement for expensive PCR tests to lateral flow tests have been put on hold due to the lack of supply and testing capability prompting passenger hesitancy. Airlines U.K. stated: “it is disappointing for our customers to have no definitive clarity yet on when the lateral flow changes will be introduced. With the crucial October half-term just two weeks away we urgently need clarity so that passengers can plan ahead. This is the key booking period between now and Christmas, so time is of the essence.”

John Flett


  • John Flett

    John has always had a passion for aviation and through a career with Air New Zealand has gained a strong understanding of aviation operations and the strategic nature of the industry. During his career with the airline, John held multiple leadership roles and was involved in projects such as the introduction of both the 777-200 and -300 type aircraft and the development of the IFE for the 777-300. He was also part of a small team who created and published the internal communications magazines for Air New Zealand’s pilots, cabin crew and ground staff balancing a mix of corporate and social content. John is educated to postgraduate level achieving a masters degree with Distinction in Airline and Airport Management. John is currently the course director of an undergraduate commercial pilot training programme at a leading London university. In addition he is contracted as an external instructor for IATA (International Air Transport Association) and a member of the Heathrow Community Fund’s ‘Communities for Tomorrow’ panel.

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