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European airlines fall as Covid variants threaten travel revival

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European airline and travel stocks tumbled Monday after Britain reimposed quarantine rules for people returning from France, stoking concern that the spread of coronavirus variants could halt a tourism rebound, according to Bloomberg.

U.K. discount carrier EasyJet Plc dropped as much as 6.5%, British Airways owner IAG SA slumped 5.9%, Ryanair Holdings Plc, which has its biggest hub at London Stansted airport fell 4% and package-holiday giant TUI AG slipped 4.3%. Air France-KLM was down as much as 4.6%.

The declines were triggered by the British government’s decision late Friday to continue requiring fully vaccinated arrivals from France to isolate amid concern about the beta Covid variant, creating a new category between moderate and high-risk in its “traffic-light” system. As of Monday, inoculated U.K. residents returning from amber nations are no longer required to quarantine.

The “Amber Plus” rule drew an angry response from tourism bodies and airlines, with International Air Transport Association Director General Willie Walsh stating that the U.K. has no coherent policy on international travel.

The switch, seen as likely to put people off travelling to France, has provoked wider concerns about the status of other amber-list locations that are now quarantine-exempt for double-jabbed travellers and looking forward to the arrival of thousands of Britons to help restore summer earnings.

Britain switched its position on another major holiday market, Spain’s Balearic Islands, earlier last week, moving them back to amber status from green amid concern about a surge in the delta variant of Covid-19 in resorts popular with younger people who may not have had the jab.