A HOLIDAY operator has issued a strong statement following the decision to remove Portugal from the UK's travel green list.

Jet2 and Jet2Holidays' boss Steve Heapy hit out at the last minute decision as the operator confirmed flights and holidays to the Spanish island would be delayed.

He has since issued information to passengers in the North East who were due to fly out to Portugal in coming weeks.

In a statement last night, Mr Heapy, the chief executive officer of Jet2 and Jet2Holidays, called for "complete transparency" on decision making.

He said: “We know how disappointed our customers and independent travel agency partners will be following today’s announcement, and we share their concerns and frustrations.

"The UK Government has repeatedly stated that it is making decisions based on infection and vaccination rates, yet many destinations continue to be left off the green list despite having low infection rates and high vaccination rates.

"When you apply the Government’s own criteria for making decisions about travel, we simply cannot understand why more destinations across Europe, the Mediterranean and the Canary Islands are not allowed to open to UK holidaymakers.

"We are now calling for complete openness and transparency when it comes to the data, so that customers and the industry can really understand what is driving these decisions.

"We agree that public health must be the number one priority. However, despite all the evidence and data showing that travel can restart safely and at scale, the UK continues to remain largely grounded whilst the rest of Europe opens up."

Addressing customers, including those in the North East who were set to depart from Newcastle, Mr Heapy said holidays would now resume later than planned.

He said: "For any destinations currently on the amber list, we are also allowing customers to amend their booking free of charge if they are due to travel between July 1 and July 21, this year.

"Where customers are affected by any programme changes outlined above, we will automatically cancel their booking with a full refund, and our team of travel experts will be in touch to help them to rebook their summer getaway."

He said it would be taking the decision to now restart flights and holidays on July 1 2021 - excluding its Jersey programme which will restart on June 24.

In addition to that, because Turkey currently remains on the red list, the firm said it had taken the decision to restart flights and holidays to the country on July 22.

He added: "We have received praise from customers, consumer organisations, media and independent travel agents for our industry-leading and prompt refunding of over £1.3bn to customers whose travel plans have been affected by programme changes during the pandemic, and we will continue this customer-first approach.

"Unlike other companies, we will refund customers if they want their money back and we will not force them to accept refund credit notes.

"We know that there is enormous pent-up demand for our flights and ATOL protected package holidays. Our customers want nothing more than to get away on their much-needed holidays and our colleagues want nothing more than to give customers the holiday they deserve.

"We know international travel can restart safely, so we urge the Government to urgently reconsider its approach and work with the industry to help us achieve that.”