Extra Portugal and Madeira flights grounded after ‘amber’ list move

Extra flights to Portugal and Madeira introduced when the destinations were included on the initial green list by the UK government are under threat.

Travel industry bosses have slammed the government’s decision to move Portugal and its islands to the amber category because of concerns over the emergence of the Delta coronavirus variant.

Low-cost carrier easyJet said it is reviewing its programme to Portugal.

A spokesperson said: “As a result of the government’s sudden announcement placing Portugal on the amber list we are currently reviewing our flying programme to the country in the coming days.

“If customers want to change their plans, we offer the option to transfer their flights to another date or destination on easyJet’s network without a change fee up to two hours before departure.

“Any customers whose flights are cancelled will be provided with their options which include receiving a full refund or transferring to an alternative flight free of charge.”

More than 1,800 flights were scheduled to depart from the UK to Portugal in June – accounting for almost 345,000 seats available from 23 UK airports.

Steve Heapy, chief executive of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays, said: “The UK government has repeatedly stated that it is making decisions based on infection and vaccination rates, yet many destinations continue to be left off the green list despite having low infection rates and high vaccination rates.

“When you apply the government’s own criteria for making decisions about travel, we simply cannot understand why more destinations across Europe, the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands are not allowed to open to UK holidaymakers.

“We are now calling for complete openness and transparency when it comes to the data, so that customers and the industry can really understand what is driving these decisions.

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“We agree that public health must be the number one priority. However, despite all the evidence and data showing that travel can restart safely and at scale, the UK continues to remain largely grounded whilst the rest of Europe opens up.”

Jet2 originally suspended flights up to June 24, but now all services have been cancelled until next month at the earliest amid a spate of changes – including moving Portugal and Madeira to the amber list.

Flights to Turkey, which is on the red list of the government’s traffic light system, will be held until at least July 22.

The UK’s largest tour operator TUI has also cancelled scores of flights in recent days.