AIRLINES and travel agents have seen the number of Brits booking holidays abroad soar after Boris Johnson announced the UK government’s roadmap out of lockdown.
On Monday the Prime Minister revealed the four-step plan for gradually lifting restrictions in England.
All legal restrictions on social contact could be lifted by June 21, while international travel could be permitted from May 17.
In the hours after the announcement, easyJet said bookings by UK customers for the summer season were more than four times higher compared with the same period during the previous week.
Malaga, Alicante and Palma were among the most popular Spanish destinations, according to the budget holiday giant.
They revealed that August is the most booked month, followed by July and September – despite Brits not knowing whether they will be able to get away until April.
EasyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren said: “We have consistently seen that there is pent-up demand for travel and this surge in bookings shows that this signal from the Government that it plans to reopen travel has been what UK consumers have been waiting for.
“The Prime Minister’s address has provided a much-needed boost in confidence for so many of our customers in the UK with demand for flights up 337% and holidays up 630% already compared to last week and beach destinations proving most popular for this summer.”
He added: “While the summer may be a little while off, we will be working around the clock to ensure we will be ready to ramp up our flights to reconnect friends and family or take them on a long-awaited holiday to remember.”
Similarly, online travel firm Thomas Cook said traffic to its website was up 60% during the three hours after the Prime Minister’s statement.
Johnson said he was ‘very optimistic’ over the plans and added that there was ‘every chance of an aviation recovery later on this year’.
Meanwhile Health Secretary Matt Hancock urged caution over Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown, warning that the effectiveness of vaccines against coronavirus strains will dictate whether or not international travel can go ahead.
He said: “We do have to protect against these new variants, and that is a big challenge,” he told Sky News.
Hancock added that “we can be much more relaxed about international travel” if vaccines work well against strains of the virus from South Africa and Brazil.
“If the vaccine doesn’t work against them, then that will be much, much more difficult,” he said.
It comes as the government confirmed they are looking at the idea of vaccine passports to allow travel abroad.
Speaking to Sky News, Johnson said he would launch a review into the possibility of rolling out domestic vaccine passports.
“This is an area where we’re looking at a novelty for our country. We’ve never thought of having anything like this before, that you have to show when you go to a pub or a theatre,” he said.
“There are deep and complex issues that we need to explore, ethical issues about what the role is for the government in mandating people to have such things or indeed banning from people doing such a thing.”
At the moment Brits are only permitted to travel for essential work purposes.
No one is allowed to enter Spain from South Africa, Brazil or the United Kingdom via air or sea until 6pm on March 2 under the current restrictions.
But there are exceptions to Spanish nationals and those who are a legal resident in Spain.
The ban was first introduced in December when scientists first detected a more-transmissible variant of the virus in the UK.
Tight restrictions were originally supposed to end on January 19 but the ban has now been extended multiple times, with restrictions currently in place until March 2.
This ban comes after Spain confirmed its first case of the Brazilian variant on Friday, with two cases of the South African variant and 479 cases of the British variant of the virus.
Anyone flying into Spain must also proof of a negative Covid test, which should be taken up to 72 hours before departure.