British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle has called on the UK government to overhaul its existing ”traffic light system” in order to simplify travel rules for customers.

Since reopening its borders for foreign travel, the UK has categorised countries for travel under green, amber or red status – applying different levels of restrictions for each category. This has been reviewed every three-weeks, creating a layer of uncertainty to travel – while the creation of ”green-watch” and “amber-plus” categories added a further layer of complexity. 

Sean Doyle

Source: British Airways

Sean Doyle, chief executive of British Airways

”The biggest single enabler of recovery will be government policy,” said Sean Doyle, speaking at an event to launch the BA Better World programme at London Heathrow on 7 September.

“We had the traffic light system over the summer, there was some progress made. But I think it’s not fit for purpose, it needs to be simplified, it needs to be adopted in the same way we see in Europe and the US, and I think that’s the biggest enabler of recovery for the industry.

”And we’d encourage the government to look at seizing that opportunity in the next few weeks. Aviation needs the same crack of the whip economically as others sectors are getting domestically, and we are not at the minute with the current system.”

A report in UK newspaper the Daily Telegraph yesterday suggested the government was looking at scrapping the traffic light system in favour of rules based around Covid vaccination status.

Doyle would not be drawn on how long it might take for BA to recover to pre-crisis levels of capacity. But he says: ”When markets do open up, what we have seen is the business is there. People want to do business again, they want to visit friends and family, and they want to take a holiday, and they haven’t been able to do that with any certainty for the last 18 months and we know they want to get back travelling.”

Whilst fully vaccinated travellers from the USA are able to fly to the UK quarantine-free under the existing traffic light system, restrictions on non-essential travel from the UK into the USA are still be lifted.

”It’s a political process. When you look at the data and the fact Europe and the UK have high levels of vaccination, there is very good supervision of the pandemic, citizens can’t travel to the US but they can from other countries,” says Doyle, “I don’t understand the data or the logic, so its in a political process. The sooner that gets unblocked the better, because its important to our economies, important to trade and we’d encourage the politicians to resolve this.”