The first flights taking Britons on package holidays to Europe this summer have taken off.
It follows the government’s announcement earlier this month of the removal of the ban on international leisure travel from May 17.
Travel Weekly is on board TUI’s 6:30am departure from Gatwick to Funchal, on the Portuguese island of Madeira to report on the resumption from the green list destination.
The operator is also flying from Gatwick to Porto Santo, Madeira, and to Funchal from Birmingham and Manchester airports.
As well as holidays to Portugal, which is on the government’s green list of 12 destinations, Tui is offering packages this week to amber destinations which the Foreign Office does not advice against non-essential travel to.
There is a departure to the Greek island of Corfu from Gatwick this morning, and services to Corfu, as well as Tenerife and Gran Canaria, in the Canary Islands, from Manchester.
Because these destinations are on the amber list, holidaymakers are required to self-isolate at home on return to the UK.
Andrew Flintham, managing director of TUI UK, said: “We’re delighted to welcome our customers back on board. There’s been an unbelievable amount of hard work behind the scenes to resume our operations and we’re just delighted that we navigated all the twists and turns to make sure everyone can go on the holidays they’ve been looking forward to and deserve.
“We’re proud that because we own every element of the holiday journey we’re uniquely placed to respond to demand by adding additional flights and hotels to the most popular hotspots, and can help our customers every step of the way. Also, by introducing easy and affordable subsidised testing packages, at just £20 for green list destinations, we’ve made travelling overseas a reality for many of our customers.
“We’re looking forward to more of our most popular destinations joining the green list, so our customers can get on a well-deserved getaway this summer.”
Other tour operators also resumed departures this morning.
EasyJet holidays has holidays departing this week to the Algarve, Madeira and Portuguese capital Lisbon, as well as to some of the Greek islands where FCDO advice allows.
Olympic Holidays has May 17 departures to Portugal, some Greek islands, Lanzarote in the Canaries and Malta, which is also exempt from the FCDO advice against non-essential travel.
The UK’s second largest Atol holder, Jet2holidays, is not due to resume operations until June 24.
The Civil Aviation Authority has been assessing the steps the industry has been taking to make sure UK airlines and airports are Covid-secure for passengers and staff, through its voluntary assurance scheme.
The regulator’s assessments look at a range of measures including the use of masks and face coverings, health screening and declarations, as well as specific steps for passengers with reduced mobility.
The CAA will continue to work with all organisations who have been through the scheme to help maintain COVID-security as international leisure travel takes off.
Most airlines have kept their pilots’ skills up to date using sufficient flight simulator time and the CAA has been working with industry to put other focussed training plans in place for airlines and their crew.
British Airline Pilots’ Association general secretary Brian Strutton said: “Pilots are delighted to be back in the air and delivering passengers safely to their destinations so people can enjoy some much needed holidays.
“The British public is keen to resume foreign travel and we need to give them the confidence to do so. That’s why the government must work hard to co-ordinate the return to travel globally and ensure it is not inhibiting travel unnecessarily.
“With vaccination programmes in the US and UK going well, we urge them to reopen that travel corridor as soon as possible.
“The government must not waste time when it comes to reassessing the designations of other countries. Safe destinations must not be made to languish in the amber and red categories longer than is necessary.”