As British government travel restrictions remain firmly in place for all but a handful of “green” countries, British Airways (BA, London Heathrow) has said that it is putting thousands of its employees back on furlough, reversing a process it began on May 17 to bring staff back.

The airline confirmed in a statement to PA Media that a large number of its workers, including management, had been put back onto the scheme, without giving specific numbers.

Official advice remains not to visit “amber” countries - currently the vast majority worldwide - for leisure, resulting in the majority of people choosing not to travel beyond UK borders.

As of June 14, green countries and territories from which travellers are not required to quarantine unless a Covid-19 test result after arrival is positive include Australia, Brunei, the Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Iceland, Israel, New Zealand, Singapore, St Helena, and Ascension and Tristan da Cunha islands. It excludes key destinations such as France, Italy, Spain, and Portugal.

The IAG International Airlines Group-owned flag carrier called on the government to reopen international travel “as soon as possible” and add “low-risk” nations such as the United States to its green list.

“Like many companies, we’re using the furlough scheme to protect jobs during this unprecedented crisis. However, it’s vital the government follows its risk-based framework to reopen international travel as soon as possible, putting more low-risk countries, like the US, on its green list at the next available opportunity,” the statement said.

The UK government’s furlough scheme, which pays up to 80% of salaries, is due to end on September 30. The trade body Airlines UK argued in a letter to Chancellor Rishi Sunak last week for furlough support for aviation workers to be extended until April 2022.

Transatlantic operators including American Airlines, BA, and Virgin Atlantic had been hoping for an agreement between US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the recent G7 summit in Cornwall to announce an air corridor between the two countries but were disappointed to be told that a taskforce would only start to look at recommendations.