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London court rules traffic light travel system is lawful

written by Isabella Richards | July 21, 2021

British Airways Boeing 747, registration G-CIVW, arriving at Dunsfold Park in Surrey (SurreyLive/Grahame Larter).

London’s High Court has ruled that Britain has not acted unlawfully over its ‘traffic light’ travel system, after a case brought by industry groups argued it caused damage to the sector.

The traffic light system was first introduced in May this year to regulate which countries Britons can travel to. Red countries require residents to quarantine on return in a government facility, amber mandates returnees must isolate at home, while green allows free movement.

Currently, the government is not required to disclose any more information about how it reaches its travel decisions, as the system “cautiously” manages risk from different COVID-19 variants, a spokesperson said.

The case, along with Manchester Airport Group (MAG), was brought by Ryanair, easyJet, British airways parent IAG, TUI UK and Virgin Atlantic.

The joint groups criticised the system for not presenting ‘clear and consistent evidence-based’ data to support last minute traffic light changes.

“British businesses and consumers deserve to understand how the government takes decisions on the traffic light system so that they can book their travel with confidence,” they said.

Michael O’Leary, CEO of Ryanair Group, said when the legal action was first announced: “The UK’s traffic light system has been a complete shambles from the beginning.”


The “go-stop-go” policy allegedly caused further damage to the industry, and continued to provide uncertainty for families travelling.

But despite industry fears, the government welcomed the court’s decision.

“Our traffic light system continues to cautiously manage the risk of new variants as we balance the timely reopening of international travel while safeguarding public health and protecting the vaccine roll-out,” said the government spokesperson.

The group believes if decisions were made on real data, more countries would be on the green list.

In the most recent ‘Freedom day’ restriction changes, France, while recording fewer cases than the UK, is considered a risk.

While other nations can now enjoy quarantine free travel to Britain, French travellers have to continue abiding by 10-day isolation requirements.

EasyJet chief Johan Lundgren said the decision “pulls the rug” from travellers in France and shows the traffic light system is “falling apart”.

Willie Walsh, the director general of the International Air Transport Association. said the UK is “destroying its own travel sector and the thousands of jobs that rely on it”.


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