Airline leaders demand ‘urgent road map’ for reopening travel

Neil Lancefield, PA Transport Correspondent
·2-min read

Airline bosses are demanding that the Government provides an “urgent road map for the reopening of air travel”.

The chief executives of British Airways, easyJet and Virgin Atlantic were among those to sign a joint letter ahead of an expected announcement confirming the introduction of quarantine hotels for arriving travellers.

They warned that requiring passengers to pay to self-isolate in hotels will have a “dramatic impact” on airlines and the wider UK economy.

Vital freight and PPE supplies would be impacted, and tens of thousands of jobs would be put at risk, according to the letter.

The airline leaders called for “a bespoke support package that can get UK airlines through this crisis”.

They added: “We are writing to you seeking an urgent road map for the reopening of air travel and a package of support for UK aviation that recognises the urgency and scale of the danger now facing our sector.”

Tens of thousands of aviation jobs have already been cut due to the collapse in demand for air travel.

Whitehall sources suggest ministers may opt to make quarantine hotels only mandatory for people arriving in England from coronavirus hotspots, rather than all destinations. This could include people arriving on flights from South America.

An announcement is expected to be made by Home Secretary Priti Patel on Wednesday.

Priti Patel
Priti Patel (Matt Dunham/PA)

Similar measures are being considered by the devolved administrations.

Linda Bauld, professor of public health at the University of Edinburgh, said quarantine hotels are “absolutely essential”.

She told BBC Breakfast: “If you look at the genomics work that’s being done, looking at where the virus has come from – for example, in the summer up here in Scotland, we got down to two cases on July 12, and tiny numbers in that month of July.

“And then, as we headed into the late summer, the genomic studies show us that we reimported the virus from overseas and from elsewhere in the UK into the country because of travel.

“And the overseas issue is something we can do something about, so adopting a model a bit like south-east Asian countries, Australia or New Zealand, where we have quarantine that is not just voluntary, like it is now, but supported quarantine – that will mean hotels for some people.

“I can see that the UK Government may decide to start with countries where variants are a real concern, but I think going forward we’re going to have to apply that more comprehensively.”

Asked if the lack of quarantine measures earlier had contributed to the current situation, she said: “I think it was a major factor.”