Shares in airlines hammered as U.K. implements another last-minute travel rule change

©easyJet will remove the back row of seating from its A319 fleet of aircraft, thus enabling each aircraft to fly with fewer crew

Shares in airlines have been hit hard as a result of yet another last-minute U.K. travel rule change. This time the British government announced on Friday that it was no longer considering allowing fully vaccinated arrivals from France without going into quarantine owing to the spread of a new variant of the coronavirus in France. As this is not the first time Britain has made last minute changes to travel regulations during the pandemic, there is now concern there will be even more changes and as a consequence people are being discouraged from booking flights to and from the U.K. This is despite fully vaccinated people now being able to travel throughout Europe, of which the U.K. is no longer a member state.

easyJet shares, whose largest market is the U.K., were down almost 6% in midday trading Monday, while IAG was down 4%, and TUI and Jet2 down more than 3%. Over the last three months, stocks in those airlines have fallen 20% with the emergence of new variants of the COVID-19 coronavirus and continual changes to travel rules that killed off any chance of a bumper summer for airlines. There is also concern that the U.K. could treat Spain and Greece in a similar manner, both extremely popular travel destinations for U.K. holidaymakers.

EasyJet Chief Executive Johan Lundgren said Britain’s traffic light system, which classifies countries as green, amber or red depending on their COVID-19 risk level, was “falling apart”, resulting in confusion and uncertainty.

The U.K.s travel industry recovery is lagging behind that of its European counterparts as U.K. flight numbers are down 65% on pre-pandemic levels for July 12, 2019. Figures for France, Germany, Spain and Italy are currently between 30% and 45% lower when compared to the same period in 2019. June passenger numbers for Heathrow Airport show that it is operating at 90% of its pre-pandemic numbers.

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