Holiday bookings take off as pre-departure Covid tests scrapped

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Holiday bookings take off as pre-departure Covid tests scrapped
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Airlines have seen bookings soar after Boris Johnson announced the pre-departure Covid test rule for travellers heading to England was being scrapped.

The change - which was coming into force at 4am on Friday - has handed a major boost to the beleaguered travel industry.

The Prime Minister also announced the requirement for flyers to self-isolate on arrival until they receive a negative PCR test is being dropped.

On Thursday, Jet2holidays and Jet2.com reported a massive surge in bookings since the PM’s statement on Wednesday.

Customers behind a 150 per cent daily spike are said to be planning trips to Spain, the Canaries, the Balearic Islands, Turkey and Greece.

Virgin Atlantic said searches were up 150 per cent week on week, peaking at 8pm on Wednesday, a few hours after Mr Johnson addressed the Commons.

The most popular destinations departing from the UK were Orlando, New York and Barbados, it said.

British Airways said visits to its 2022 holidays website increased by nearly 40 per cent with New York, Dubai and Barbados the most searched.

Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays said: “The relaxation of travel restrictions is welcome news for both the travel industry and holidaymakers and comes during what is traditionally a very busy period for holiday bookings.

“We have seen an immediate and dramatic spike in bookings, with volumes since the government announcement heading towards pre-pandemic levels, which demonstrates just how much demand is out there amongst people wanting to get away for a much-needed holiday.

Holidaymakers on Platja Nova Icarie beach in Barcelona (PA Archive)
Holidaymakers on Platja Nova Icarie beach in Barcelona (PA Archive)

“We were already heading into the New Year with a strong feeling of positivity and confidence, and the removal of these restrictions really gets 2022 off to a great start.”

A Virgin Atlantic spokesman added: “It’s also important to note that most people were searching for inbound travel to the UK – highlighting we’re open for business and tourists once again.”

In his statement to MPs on Wednesday, the Prime Minister said the Omicron variant is now so prevalent in the country that pre-departure tests are having limited impact on the spread of the disease.

Instead, the rules will revert to the system in place in October, with travellers required to take a lateral flow test no later than the end of day two after their arrival.

The measures were originally introduced following the identification of the fast-spreading Omicron variant in South Africa last November.

The announcement – which covers those passengers who are fully vaccinated or are under the age of 18 – has been broadly welcomed by the travel industry, which has been particularly hard-hit by the pandemic.

EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said: “This will make travel much simpler and easier and means our customers can book and travel with confidence.

“However, the Government must now urgently take the final step towards restriction-free travel and remove the last remaining unnecessary test for vaccinated travellers so flying does not become the preserve of the rich.”

Virgin Atlantic cabin crew staff at London Heathrow Airport’s T3 (Doug Peters/PA) (PA Wire)
Virgin Atlantic cabin crew staff at London Heathrow Airport’s T3 (Doug Peters/PA) (PA Wire)

A spokesman for Heathrow Airport said: “Although this is welcome news, there is still a long way back for aviation which remains the lifeblood of the UK’s economy, supporting millions of jobs in all four nations.”

NHS lateral flow tests cannot be used for international travel, and the tests must be brought from a private provider.

While those who have already brought PCR tests for travelling needs can still use these.

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