The Prime Minister also revealed quick Covid tests could be used for some travellers – saving hundreds of pounds for families desperate for a summer getaway. He said yesterday: “I do think we want to make things as easy as we possibly can. “I want to see international travel start up again. We have to be realistic, a lot of the destinations we want to go to are suffering from a new wave of illness. “We can’t do it immediately. But that doesn’t mean we have given up on May 17.”
And travel bosses insisted Brits “should not lose hope” – they believe many hotspots should be designated green light status.
They say the likes of Portugal, the US, Caribbean and Israel could be on the easy-travel list. When the UK ban on international travel ends it will be replaced with a traffic light system of red, amber and green countries.
Holidaymakers returning from red breaks will have to quarantine in a hotel and amber travellers must isolate at home.
But those arriving from green countries will be able to avoid both if they pay for coronavirus tests before and after they travel.
Anyone still flying now has to take gold standard PCR tests, which cost around £120 a time.
Alternative Lateral Flow Tests give results in 30 minutes and are generally free. From Friday, all adults in England can have two free kits a week.
Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye said yesterday: “In terms of Europe, we’re three months away from the summer holiday season. Already there are countries that would be green or close to green – I’m thinking places like Portugal – that are very popular.
“So it’s perfectly reasonable that there will be other sunshine states within Europe that will be open, on the green, possibly amber list, for the summer in Europe.”
Shai Weiss, Virgin Atlantic chief executive, said the US is “vaccinating over three million people per day” and Israel is “the world’s leading vaccinated country”.
He added that the Caribbean “has done an awesome job throughout this pandemic of keeping things under control”.
But his easyJet counterpart, Johan Lundgren warned paying hundreds for PCR tests would mean international travel opened up only to the well-heeled. He urged the Government to consider cheaper, faster alternatives.
The PM yesterday revealed LFTs were being considered.
He said: “I raised that very issue myself. The boss of easyJet is right to focus on this issue. We are going to see what we can do to make things as flexible and as affordable as possible.”
He added: “I know how impatient people are to book their holidays if they can but we just have to be prudent at this stage.
“We’re looking at the role of vaccination passports for overseas travel. I think that is going to be fact of life. A lot of other countries are looking at that.”
“Mr Holland-Kaye and Mr Weiss were speaking alongside British Airways boss Sean Doyle during joint press conference yesterday.
They urged ministers to give them early notice of changes to travel rules – and consider realistic testing and quarantine requirements.
Mr Weiss said: “We need clarity. We welcome a traffic-light framework, [but] where pre-departure testing is required it has to be based on rapid testing. We can’t have a prohibitively expensive testing system.
“Those travelling to and from green countries should not face testing at all. Travellers from amber countries should not face quarantine. We don’t think quarantine is effective for red a countries.”
Referring to the Global Travel Taskforce, which will make recommendations on Monday, Mr Weiss said: “When the taskforce reports, it will be important to understand the thresholds [for categorising countries]. And which countries will be in which categories so we can plan for a restart on May 17.”
Mr Doyle added: “We’re asking the Government to work with other governments which have rolled out world-leading vaccination programmes. A number of European markets, when assessed against that framework and looking at the data, will be open for travel. We are optimistic that travel can resume on May 17. The public should not lose hope – we remain optimistic this will happen.”
Mr Weiss said: “We want to highlight the US opportunity.
“The US has a very successful vaccination programme and they are on track to vaccinate over 70 percent of the population by May.
“The US Centers for Disease Control recommended last week that fully vaccinated people can travel freely domestically.
“Within the traffic-light framework we have an opportunity to get the US on the green list by May 17, but this requires the US and UK to expedite talks.”
Mr Holland-Kaye said the United Arab Emirates was similarly well placed for green status.