Omicron: Industry fears travel will be crippled by measures introduced to curb new Covid variant

Travel bosses across the south say new restrictions being introduced in response to the new covid variant, Omicron, will cripple the industry's recovery. 

From 4am on Tuesday, November 30, anyone entering the UK will have to take a PCR test, and all contacts of new variant cases will have to self-isolate, even if fully jabbed.

The day two tests must be bought from the private sector, and typically cost around £55.

Previously, fully vaccinated travellers were only required to take a cheaper lateral flow test, and did not need to self-isolate unless they received a positive result.

Unvaccinated travellers will continue to need one pre-departure test and two post-arrival PCR tests, and must self-isolate for 10 days.


Red list countries

Red list countries

Angola - Added to the red list 4am, Sunday 28 November.

Botswana - Added to red list at 12.00 midday Friday 26 November.

Eswatini - Added to red list at 12.00 midday Friday 26 November.

Lesotho - Added to red list at 12.00 midday Friday 26 November.

Malawi - Added to the red list 4am, Sunday 28 November.

Mozambique - Added to the red list 4am, Sunday 28 November.

Namibia - Added to red list at 12.00 midday Friday 26 November.

South Africa - Added to red list at 12.00 midday Friday 26 November.

Zambia - Added to the red list 4am, Sunday 28 November.

Zimbabwe - Added to red list at 12.00 midday Friday 26 November.

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Heathrow Airport has been hit with thousands of job losses since the start of the pandemic, and says the new travel rules will further hamper recovery. 

The airport is calling for urgent compensation in response to the restrictions.

A Heathrow spokesperson said: We are supportive of any temporary measures that will protect public health as we learn more about this new variant.

Heathrow Airport is calling for urgent compensation in response to the new restrictions.

"However, these come at a time where the sector was looking forward to recovery after the past catastrophic 20 months.

"Measures today take us back and additional self-isolation requirements for those who are fully vaccinated will further hamper the industry’s recovery.

"The aviation sector is yet again the only sector that remains significantly restricted and so Government must urgently look at financial compensation as these restrictions remain in place.”

In the first six months of 2021 Gatwick passenger numbers were at a low of just 569,000 Credit: PA

Gatwick Airport has also been badly hit during the pandemic. In the first six months of 2021, passenger numbers were at a low of just 569,000. It's a fraction of the 46 million passengers which passed through the airport in 2019.

Easy Jet have announced today they have extended their protection promise in to 2022 - meaning passengers can continue to change their flights for free.

But passengers are urged to speak to their airline or travel agent for their own rules about changing or cancelling a trip. 

Simon Calder, Travel expert

Professor Jim Naismith, director of the Rosalind Franklin Institute and professor of structural biology at the University of Oxford, said travel rules are "all or nothing with respect to Covid-19 variants".

He said, "Rapidly spreading variants will move faster than surveillance systems. Stopping travel to one country whilst allowing it from others has not been particularly effective because the virus is able to take multiple transit routes.

"Similarly, discriminating between who is allowed to travel into a country on citizenship grounds has not worked well, since the virus is not interested in passports."

Gemma Antrobus runs Haslemere Travel in Surrey, and has told ITV Meridian that no-one in the travel industry would want to put the health of customers at risk, but that the ramifications the new restrictions have on the industry are huge.

"There has to be the follow-through on, 'we're putting this in place now to protect everyone, but who does this really affect?'

"That is the front line sales people like myself, the tour operators, it's not just large airlines and hotels. It is the small companies that this will have a huge effect on."


Gemma Antrobus, Haslemere Travel:


The World Tourism Organisation, the United Nations' tourism body, has warned that global revenue from international tourism this year will be less than half the pre-pandemic level of 2019.

News of the new variant has had a dramatic impact on the share price of travel companies. 

Carnival, which owns Southampton-based P&O Cruises and Cunard, is among the worst-hit.

The company, based in the USA, saw its shares crash by 15%.

Heathrow’s largest airline British Airways also saw its share price go down by almost 15%, while Gatwick’s biggest airline, easyJet, saw a fall of 11%.