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Ryanair and Manchester Airport take legal action over traffic light system

People boarding a Ryanair plane from City Airport, Manchester

Ryanair and Manchester Airport Group to launch legal action against the government over the traffic light system.

The BBC understands it has the backing of other major UK airlines.

The challenge calls for more transparency on how the government decides which countries qualify for the green list.

The government has said its traffic light system “carefully manages the risk of new variants.”

The challenge was met after enormous frustration within the travel industry over the inclusion of Portugal on the green list in mid-May and then its sudden removal a few weeks later.

On top of that, the travel industry believes the Balearic and Greek Islands should have been included on the green list of countries last month when health data was analyzed.

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary wants Boris Johnson to explain the scientific basis of the system he says the government “seems to be inventing” as it goes.

Other signatories to the challenge are expected to be revealed on Thursday. They demand a swift response as the crucial summer season approaches.

The government said at the time that Portugal’s move from the Green List to the Amber List was necessary due to rising infection rates in the country and the emergence of the “Nepalese variant”, a mutation of the Indian / delta version of the virus. It was feared that vaccines would not work as well on this particular mutation.

The move forced some British holidaymakers to cut their holidays short and return from Portugal on additional flights offered by airlines before the country was taken off the green travel list in early June.

Travelers the BBC spoke to said it was costing them hundreds of pounds to book new flights home before the deadline.

Travel officials fear the damage from these sudden reversals will continue to erode the confidence of the British traveling public.

They maintain that there is a huge pent-up demand for overseas travel this summer, following three coronavirus lockdowns and a large number of canceled or postponed vacations.

But epidemiologists fear that mass travel before more people are fully vaccinated, both in the UK and at holiday destinations, could allow the virus to spread faster.

And while cases of Covid are suddenly on the rise on holiday islands, it is not clear whether health systems there are able to manage their care.

A government spokesperson said: “We recognize that these are difficult times for the sector as we seek to balance the rapid reopening of international travel while protecting public health and vaccine deployment. “

“We have provided £ 7 billion to help support the industry during the pandemic.”

The spokesperson added that the government could not comment on the court proceedings.

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