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Air fares to Portugal soar ahead of Friday’s green list announcement

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 07/05/2021 Michael Howie

Demand for flights to Portugal is surging, indicating that many holidaymakers hope the summer hotspot will be on the Government’s green travel list when it is published on Friday.

British Airways was on Thursday charging £530 for a flight from Heathrow to the Algarve on May 17, which is when the ban on foreign holidays will be lifted for people in England.

Flying the same route two days earlier costs just £234.

A Ryanair flight from Stansted to Portugal’s capital Lisbon on the day overseas leisure travel restarts was priced at £152, compared with £15 on May 16.

EasyJet was on Thursday charging £234 for a flight from Luton to the Algarve on May 17, but just £73 the following day.

Airlines increase prices in line with demand, indicating that many holidaymakers are hoping Portugal is categorised as a low-risk destination for coronavirus.

Around 2.5 million British nationals visited the country in 2019.

The quarantine and testing requirements for people arriving in England once foreign holidays resume will be based on a new traffic light system, with destinations placed on green, amber and red lists.

People arriving from a green location will not need to quarantine and will only have to take one post-arrival test.

Those returning from an amber list country must self-isolate for at least five days and take two tests.

The red list requires a 10-night stay in a quarantine hotel at a cost of £1,750 for solo travellers.

Assessments will be based on a range of factors, including the proportion of a country’s population that has been vaccinated, rates of infection, emerging new variants, and the country’s access to reliable scientific data and genomic sequencing.

There is speculation that this could lead to the green list featuring destinations such as Portugal, Malta, Gibraltar and Israel.

The latest weekly rate of new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people is 21.2 in the UK, 26.5 in Portugal and 28.6 in Malta.

On April 14, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office stopped advising against all but essential travel to mainland Portugal, demonstrating that the Government does not see the country as presenting a high risk for UK tourists.

The most popular European destinations – such as Spain, Italy, France and Greece – are initially expected to be on the amber list, but could switch to green ahead of the peak summer holiday months.

a plane sitting on top of a runway: PA Archive © Provided by Evening Standard PA Archive

Spain has a seven-day rate of 98.2 cases while Greece is on 113.9.

No plans for the resumption of foreign holidays have been announced by the UK’s devolved administrations.

Meanwhile Tui, the UK’s largest holiday company, announced it will offer customers coronavirus tests for a fraction of standard prices.

The cheapest package – aimed at people returning from green destinations – will be available for just £20, and consist of a lateral flow test and PCR test.

PCR tests alone typically cost £120 each, although several travel companies offer them for £60.

Tui said it is “subsidising the cost of testing to help customers travel again this summer”.

There are fears that testing requirements will make summer holidays unaffordable for many families by adding hundreds of pounds to the cost of a trip.

Rory Boland, editor of magazine Which? Travel, said the announcement of £20 packages is “great news – but only for Tui customers”.

He urged the Government to “reduce the cost of testing across the board, rather than have consumers rely on a system that is currently fragmented and flawed”.

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