The start date for international holidays from England may be later than May 17, the aviation minister warned today.
Robert Courts stressed that foreign non-essential travel may start from May 17 but he could be later than that.
He said the “evidence does look promising” but “there is still a long way to go as regards the science”.
He added: “What I want to do is to make sure that what we have is robust and sustainable… All of us want to get aviation up and running again as soon as we can.”
It comes after some Brits started booking holidays despite the government repeatedly warning the May 17 date was never set in stone.
The government is yet to confirm whether or how people will be allowed to travel out of the country, with no change expected before May 17 at the earliest.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is leading a task force that is due to report back on the outlook by April 12, in order to give people time to plan and book getaways.
It is possible that hotel quarantine – or at-home quarantine – for Brits returning from abroad could remain into the summer.
Boris Johnson’s path out of lockdown restrictions says all legal restrictions could be lifted from June 21 at the earliest.
But the Prime Minister has made clear the four dates in his roadmap are the earliest possible and could be pushed back if England fails any of four key tests.
Those include the emergence of a concerning variant like the P.1 Brazil strain, six cases of which have been found in the UK.
Mr Courts said he would “absolutely reject any suggestion” that the Global Travel Taskforce is a way of pushing foreign holidays “into the long grass”.
He told the committee: “This is very much about bringing the right people together in the right way, following the Prime Minister’s road map, and making a difference to ease restrictions on the sector as quickly as we can.
“Yes safely, but in a sustainable and robust way.”
Pressed on when overseas leisure trips can resume, Mr Courts replied: “We do need to work through the really quite complicated factors that we have to look at as we get this Global Travel Taskforce report together.
“So we’ve said that there won’t be any travel before May 17, and we will look as soon as we can after that, but it really isn’t something I can give more detail on at the moment.”
Asked to clarify if the date could be after May 17, he added: “I totally understand the requirement for as much certainty as planned.
“At this stage, given that we are still very much working with industry, and working out how we are going to do this, I think it would be premature for me to be too precise at this stage.
“I totally understand the need for certainty, and I’m not wishing not to provide it. But at this moment we do need to work through the really quite complicated factors that we have to look at as we get this travel taskforce together.”