EU travel rules are ‘incredibly over-politicized’, Wizz Air CEO says

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LONDON — The coordination of travel rules in the European Union has become a politicized process and the rules remain “unpredictable,” the CEO of Wizz Air said as the airline experiences “huge” demand for the summer.

“I think the European Union as such has broken down completely, we have failed to come with unified measures and an orchestrated approach dealing with the situation and it has become incredibly over-politicized,” József Váradi, chief executive officer of budget airline Wizz Air told CNBC’s Squawk Box Europe on Wednesday.

European consumers are keen to get flying again and spend some time away this summer. However, there are concerns that constant changes to quarantine policies and the need to take Covid tests before and after the holiday might put some travelers off.

There is nothing wrong with people’s willingness to travel, the problem is government impos(ing) restrictions.
József Váradi
CEO of Wizz Air

In addition, France and Germany recently put restrictions on non-essential travel from the U.K. where a more transmissible variant of the coronavirus first discovered in India has spread. Some believe the move could have been somewhat politically motivated following acrimony over the supply of Covid vaccines.

Váradi said that restrictions on U.K. travelers was an example of how travel rules had become politicized, noting that “if you look at the U.K. for example the country is very well vaccinated, better than the European so you guys should travel freely within the European Union.”

‘Unpredictable’ rules

“The European regulatory framework remains very volatile and unpredictable and I think this is really the problem,” Váradi also said.

“There is nothing wrong with the consumer, there is nothing wrong with people’s willingness to travel, the problem is government impos(ing) restrictions and the unpredictable nature of that,” he added.

Members of the European Union have jointly discussed how to reopen their economies to tourists this summer. However, how and when this is done are ultimately decisions taken at the national level and may differ from what has been suggested by European institutions.  Nonetheless, the 27 EU nations are working to make traveling easier both within the EU and from outside the bloc.

A couple of tourists looks at the Balos beach and its lagoon in the north west of the island of Crete, on May 13, 2021.
LOUISA GOULIAMAKI | AFP | Getty Images

Vaccinated tourists outside the EU will be allowed to travel into one of the 27 EU nations this summer, provided they have received the last recommended dose at least 14 days before their arrival in the EU. They might however be subject to quarantines upon arrival, depending on the rules of their destination and the epidemiological situation in their country of origin.

Similarly, European citizens are also able to fly to other EU nations either by showing proof of vaccination or a negative test. EU citizens have now the chance to combine this information in a digital covid certificate.

“Europeans should enjoy a safe and relaxing summer. As vaccination progresses, we propose to gradually ease travel measures in a coordinated way with our common tool: the EU Digital COVID Certificate,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said on Monday.

However, quarantines may apply too but the EU’s idea is to lift this requirement to boost intra-EU travel.

The European travel and leisure sector traded marginally lower on Wednesday morning, with Wizz Air down about 0.6%.

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