Manchester Airports Group (MAG) and Ryanair have launched a legal challenge calling for transparency in the handling of its traffic light travel system by the UK government.
The move is backed by a number of other major UK airlines.
The aviation businesses say the government has not been clear about how it has made decisions about the categorisation of countries as red, amber or green.
The current “opaque” way that decisions are being made is undermining consumer confidence to book summer holidays and makes it impossible for airports, airlines and other travel companies to plan for the recovery of international travel or work with the government on future reviews, they argue.
In court papers – in which both the secretary of state for health and the secretary of state for transport are named as the defendants – MAG argues the government has a duty to clearly explain how it makes decisions on categorising countries, and to publish the supporting data, given the “dramatic” impact these decisions have on aviation businesses.
MAG points to government assurances that decisions would be made in a clear and transparent way and say that this is one of the reasons it must provide clarity as to the way assessments on red, amber, green classifications are done, and what the results of them are.
Charlie Cornish, MAG chief executive, said: “The whole travel sector recognises the critical importance of protecting public health, and we have facilitated every measure the government has required in response to Covid-19.
“That is why we originally welcomed the Global Travel Taskforce’s traffic light system, which the government said would be based on a ‘a clear and consistent evidence-based approach to facilitate the safe, sustainable and robust return of international travel.’
“However, recent developments suggest that the government is now unwilling to open up international travel by putting low risk countries on the green list.
“For most countries, the traffic light seems to be stuck on amber for no obvious reason, despite having prevalence rates much lower than the UK.
“The government is not being open, and we simply cannot understand how it is making decisions that are fundamental to our ability to plan, and to giving customers the confidence to book travel ahead.”
The judicial review has been prompted by the lack of transparency in how the government made decisions in its first review of the traffic light lists on June 3rd – which saw Portugal unexpectedly and without prior notice move to amber, causing chaos for the travelling public and industry alike.
At the same time, no other countries were categorised green, despite there being compelling data to support some being classified as low-risk.
The action therefore requests proper transparency in the ongoing decision-making process of the three-weekly reviews of the lists, with the next due towards the end of June.
MAG is calling on the Government to publish the Covid-19 prevalence thresholds it uses to determine whether destinations are classed as red, amber or green, as well as any other criteria, advice or information that informs its decision-making.