UK airline bosses have written to Boris Johnson insisting there is not enough evidence that imposing hotel quarantines on all travellers arriving into the country is necessary.
The chief executives of British Airways, easyJet and Virgin Atlantic were among those who signed the letter to the prime minister which also called for support to help the industry survive.
It came after vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi told Sky News the government would soon make an announcement on the policy – and that people should hold off on booking a summer holiday.
Travel industry insiders expect a decision on the policy imminently
The letter to Mr Johnson from airline chief executives said: “We have seen no compelling scientific evidence that introducing a policy potentially of blanket quarantine in hotels is necessary in addition to measures only recently introduced.
“An effective border closure risks impacting vital freight and PPE supplies, and jeopardising tens of thousands of jobs and the many businesses up and down the country that depend on aviation.”
Signatories include BA’s Sean Doyle, Virgin’s Shai Weiss and easyJet’s Johan Lundgren as well as bosses from TUI, Loganair, Jet2 and industry body Airlines UK.
Travel industry insiders have been expecting an imminent decision on the quarantine policy – aimed at suppressing new variants of COVID-19 – but say there are different views within government on whether it should apply to all countries or only those from a proscribed list.
The airline industry letter said that the UK already had “some of the toughest border restrictions on international arrivals anywhere in the world”.
Flights from designated high-risk countries are already banned, pre-departure controls meaning anyone arriving in the UK has already tested negative for the virus and all passengers are subject to further quarantine on arrival, the airline bosses pointed out.
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The letter argued against the imposition of additional measures and argued that even at current levels restrictions were having a “dramatic impact” on the industry and wider UK economy.
It called for a plan for the easing of rules ahead of the crucial summer period for the industry, which supports 1.56 million jobs and accounts for 4.5% of UK GDP, according to the letter.
“UK airlines cannot survive a second summer season without meaningful revenue, or additional support,” it said.
“With the latest lockdown, travel ban and now prospect of hotel quarantine, the time has now come for a bespoke support package that can get UK airlines through this crisis, and a roadmap out of these restrictions… including testing, working in concert with vaccine rollout.”
Airlines have already cut thousands of jobs as a result of pandemic restrictions wiping out travel demand.