At a meeting of the Transport Select Committee, Robert Courts told MPs that the government was “looking towards travel at some point after 17 May” – raising fears that holiday companies had acted prematurely in putting holidays on sale from the earliest date mentioned by the government.
Airlines and travel firms had concluded from the the government’s roadmap, which said international travel will be “no earlier than 17 May,” that they could hope to restart operations on that day.
Mr Courts was challenged by Labour’s Ben Bradshaw, who said: “Minister, you just said ‘at some point after 17 May’. Can you be a bit more specific?
“Are you talking about days, weeks?
The minister responded: “We’ve said there won’t be any travel before 17 May and we will look as soon as we can after that.”
But the DfT later said 17 May, as originally published, remains the earliest possible date.
A spokesperson for the DfT said: “The domestic roadmap clearly states that 17 May is the earliest time international travel could restart, and this date will be informed by the work of the Global Travel Taskforce, reporting on 12 April.”
While there is no certainty that foreign holidays will be possible from 17 May, a further postponement would cause dismay in the travel industry.
The easyJet flight from Luton to Tenerife on that date is currently selling at £204 one way.
Europe’s biggest budget airline, Ryanair indicated it hopes the UK government will “accelerate their plans to allow vaccinated UK citizens book holidays in Europe for summer 2021”.
Michael O’Leary, the chief executive, earlier told the Transport Select Committee: “We have essential been grounded for 365 days and our business has been wiped out.”