Airlines say Covid 2-week quarantine plan ‘will kill’ international travel – deterring travellers (though necessary in efforts to end the pandemic)
Trade body Airlines UK is saying “the airline industry and wider economy will suffer immeasurable damage” if ministers press ahead with plans to quarantine travellers for 14 days after they arrive at British airports. Currently people are arriving in the UK with no requirement, other than advice, to keep themselves in isolation for two weeks – in case they develop Coronavirus. So it is possible those arriving in the UK could be bringing in Covid with them, and setting up new infection spots. But the airlines say passengers having to remain at home, or in a hotel room, for 14 days would wreck international travel, further cut air travel demand, and damage their attempts to get flying profitably again (they do not appear bothered about the spread of Covid). Airlines are saying quarantine measures should be “co-ordinated” and the same between countries. They say, rightly, “Nobody is going to go on holiday if they’re not able to resume normal life for 14 days, and business travel would be severely restricted.” They like to claim aviation is vital to the UK economy … in reality most UK air travel is for leisure trips.
Airlines say two-week quarantine plan ‘will kill’ international travel
Plans to quarantine passengers coming to airports and ports are understood to have blindsided aviation bosses
By Oliver Gill (Telegraph)
27 April 2020
The airline industry and wider economy will suffer immeasurable damage if ministers press ahead with plans to quarantine travellers for 14 days after they arrive at British airports, bosses have warned.
It is feared that harsh new measures to confine passengers at home or a hotel for a fortnight will wreck international travel and hammer consumer confidence at a time when many carriers are already close to collapse.
Lobby groups attacked the plans, which would apply to both British citizens and foreigners and are designed to stop future coronavirus outbreaks, saying they are part of a wave of uncoordinated measures being taken by countries across the world and nations should act together instead.
Trade body Airlines UK said: “This proposal would effectively kill international travel to and from the UK and cause immeasurable damage to the aviation industry and wider UK economy.
“Nobody is going to go on holiday if they’re not able to resume normal life for 14 days, and business travel would be severely restricted.
“It will also make it all but impossible for aviation to resume any time soon, thereby setting back the UK’s economic recovery still further.”
Passengers who fail to remain at an address given to authorities will face large fines under the proposals, which are being overseen by Home Secretary Priti Patel and Transport Secretary Grant Shapps.
Ministers are yet to formally confirm the quarantine, which could be introduced as early as next month. George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, told Sunday’s Downing Street press conference that quarantining was “coming down the line”.
The plans are thought to have blindsided airport and airline bosses, who have yet to be briefed by the Department for Transport about them during their regular conference calls.
A spokesman from the Airport Operators Association said: “Aviation is by its very nature a global industry. As we look to recover, it will be incredibly damaging for consumer confidence in travel if the current global patchwork of health screening measures and travel bans continue to proliferate.
“The UK Government should lead internationally in agreeing a common baseline for health screening that facilitates travel while reducing the risk of Covid-19 spreading again.”
Separately, low-cost easyJet urged investors to reject a boardroom coup by its founder and biggest investor.
Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou wants to remove chairman John Barton, chief executive Johan Lundgren and two other directors in a row over a £4.5bn Airbus contract. The motion will be put to a vote on May 22.
Meanwhile airline Norwegian warned that most of its planes will remain grounded until next year under plans put to lenders ahead of a vote on Thursday over whether to swap their debt for shares.
Gatwick airport’s third-biggest carrier needs the deal to pass so it can access crucial state aid from authorities in Oslo.
Airlines seeking help
Virgin Atlantic Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group says it is not looking to sell the airline, after appointing bankers Houlihan Lokey to look for new investors. Branson however could potentially sell down his majority 51% stake. The US carrier Delta, which owns 49%, has said it will not put further funds into Virgin Atlantic as it seeks to preserve its own core operation. Virgin Atlantic says it remains in “constructive talks” with the UK government, which has batted away its initial requests for help worth £500m in loans and credit guarantees.
EasyJet As a listed firm with aircraft assets, EasyJet was able to tap the government and Bank of England for a £600m loan under its Covid Corporate Financing Facility. It says it can now survive another nine months at the present rate of cash burn.
Lufthansa Shares rose in the German airline on Monday after ministers insisted that they would not let the flag-carrier be a casualty of the pandemic. Talks continue towards a multibillion state bailout. The group’s Austrian Airlines subsidiary has already been pledged €870m (£759m) by Austria’s government.
Air France-KLM About €10bn in total will be provided by the French and Dutch governments to bail out the twin national carriers, in the form of credit guarantees and loans. The Netherlands has demanded executive pay cuts and the suspension of dividends and bonuses.
US carriers Two pots of $25bn have been earmarked for airlines from the US’s $2.2tn stimulus package. The first will provide grants and cheap loans according to each airline’s payroll, and be given on condition of keeping staff employed. Airlines can apply for additional loans from the second pot. The biggest carriers, such as United, American Airlines and Delta, are expected to receive up to $5bn each from the first tranche.
Analysis by Roger Harrabin, BBC
MPs from several parties – led by the LibDems – have signed a letter to the Chancellor Rishi Sunak urging him to bail out aviation firms to save tens of thousands of jobs.
But government support for aviation is controversial because flying fuels climate change, which is judged by the UN to be an even deeper long term crisis than the virus.
The MPs’ letter suggests that any support package offered to airlines and travel companies comes with stringent conditions.
But carbon offsetting – by, say, planting trees – is contentious, and environment groups say it would be better for the planet if the aviation sector was allowed to shrink.