Testing costs put holidays to popular destinations out of reach for two-thirds of families

Summer holidays to popular destinations will be out of reach for at least two-thirds of families because testing could increase the cost of travel by 160 per cent, a study for international airlines has found.

The research, for the International Air Transport Association (IATA), showed that even with cheaper tests more than half of travellers would be priced out of holidays in destinations such as the Spanish Canary islands.

The modelling, by Oxera and Edge Health, economics and health experts used by the NHS, calculated the costs of testing on five “typical” routes including UK to New York, Frankfurt and Singapore for business, UK-Pakistan for family and UK-Canaries for holidays.

With the current “gold standard” PCR testing regime that would apply to “amber” risk countries like Spain, a family of four would have to take 16 tests at a potential cost of £1,600 – more than doubling the travel bill to £2,600 and adding 32 per cent to the £3,950 price of a holiday.

On the London-Frankfurt route, testing would increase the cost of travel by between 57 per cent and 143 per cent depending on whether PCR or antigen tests were used.

The cost of testing is a lower proportion of the fare on long-haul business routes, such as London-New York and UK-Singapore, given the higher business class fares on these routes – but it would still add 11 per cent and 18 per cent respectively.

“The modelling shows that based on five routes studied, the cost impact of PCR testing will reduce demand by an average of 65 per cent,” said the report. “Replacing PCR with antigen testing would still have a cost impact on demand, but at 30 per cent.”

The Government is due to unveil its traffic light lists of countries around May 10 in advance of the ban on foreign travel being lifted from May 17

Only a handful of countries are expected to be on the “safe” quarantine-free green list, where only two tests are needed including one PCR.

It is, however, unlikely to include the most popular European destinations, which are expected to be on the “amber” list, where any travellers will have to quarantine at home for 10 days on their return and take two PCR tests as well as a pre-departure test.

Willie Walsh, the former boss of BA and now the director general of IATA, said: “Studies show that antigen tests can be as effective as PCR tests.

“By mandating PCR testing unnecessarily the Government forces consumers to pay high prices for testing, often to companies who are exploiting the health crisis with the excessive fees they charge. On top of this, the Government rubs salt in the wounds of consumers by charging VAT on these rip-off fees.”