The Transport Select Committee said travel restrictions were “disproportionate to the risk to public health” which had caused serious damage to the UK’s aviation industry.
In a wide-ranging and highly critical report, MPs say the government’s frequently changing Covid-19 rules are “not based on scientific consensus”.
The measures have caused “a severe financial shock to the industry” without significant health benefits.
But the government insists the travel restrictions “have been in place for no longer than necessary”.
Immediately after the start of the coronavirus pandemic, in mid-March 2020, the UK was the only country in the world to have removed all incoming restrictions.
But by June of that year, when other countries were opening up, ministers went against the odds with a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all arrivals to the UK (except from Ireland). .
The frequent changes in the short term, along with the introduction of hotel isolation measures and the weak “traffic light” restriction system continued for the following 21 months.
All travel measures were removed by March 2022.
The committee, chaired by senior Conservative MP Huw Merriman, is scathing about the measures imposed by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
It concluded: “The way the government has introduced international travel restrictions during the pandemic is inconsistent, confusing the industry and passengers.”
“The aviation industry, which connects the UK to the world, has experienced severe economic difficulties due to government restrictions that are not based on scientific consensus.”
Traffic light restrictions are described as “unclear, unclear and inconsistent”.
The report said that “the rationale behind making the decision to classify individual countries as ‘red’, ‘amber’ or ‘green’ was not established”.
While in hotel isolation, MPs found no evidence of benefits over self-isolating at home.
They also feel frustrated about frequent changes to the rules, saying: “The restrictions have changed more than 15 times between 2020 and 2022.”
In fact, if many “traffic light” movements were included, the changes would amount to hundreds.
A spokesman for the Department of Transport dismissed the commission’s findings, saying: “Our priority is to protect public health, and these measures have helped to save significant time in the implementation of the program. our success booster as we meet new and related variations.
“But we also made sure they were there for as long as necessary and the UK was the first country in the G7 to remove all travel restrictions.
“In the future, the government’s default approach will be to use the least stringent measures, to minimize the impact on travel as far as possible, and these measures will only be implemented during those days. extreme cases.”
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said: “The region has experienced its worst crisis ever and it will take several years to settle the debt that airlines have to bear. endure to overcome the pandemic without passengers”.
The UK’s preeminent position in European aviation was gone. For the decades to the start of 2020, London Heathrow was the busiest in Europe.
But the UK’s main hub starts in 2022 in 10th place, according to Airports Council International, behind both the main Moscow airports, the two Istanbul airports and even the Antalya resort in Turkey.