UK Airlines Call for Testing Not Quarantine in ‘Last Chance’ to Save Aviation Industry

September 10, 2020 Updated: September 10, 2020

British airlines on Thursday pressed the UK government to introduce CCP virus testing by the end of the month instead of quarantine, in what they described as a “last chance” to save the industry

Airlines UK, an industry body representing British Airways (BA), easyJet, Ryanair Virgin Atlantic, TUI, Jet2, and others, said action to replace the 14-day quarantine currently in place for travelers entering the UK from countries with high rates of the CCP virus was needed before the end of September.

“We urge you to announce and implement a policy on testing before the end of this month,” Airlines UK said in a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

“The stakes could not be higher. We risk economic ruin otherwise.”

The letter was co-signed by the chief executives and directors of 15 airlines, all of which have been severely impacted by measures put in place to slow the spread of the CCP (Chinese  Communist Party) virus, commonly known as novel coronavirus.

London Gatwick airport
British Airlines, EasyJet, and TUI aircraft are pictured at London Gatwick Airport in London on June 9, 2020. (Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images)

Rescue Measures

Airlines UK suggested a COVID-19 test following a five-day quarantine on arrival into the UK “offers a credible balance between protecting public health and increasing demand for air travel.”

They also suggested a trial of testing on arrival and on day-five of quarantine on certain routes be implemented to “give Ministers the reassurance that a one-test on arrival system is safe.”

As well as testing, the airlines are appealing for the government to urgently introduce a raft of other measures to rescue the British aviation industry, including the waiving of passenger tax for 12 months and the extension of government job and skills retention schemes for aviation.

Though the letter welcomed the “islands policy” introduced by the government on Wednesday, which can remove or add a country’s islands rather than the whole country to the quarantine list, it said the policy could not mitigate the overall impact of the virus nor bolster the industry to face the “most challenging winter season” it has ever faced.

Airlines UK also suggested the opening “regional travel corridors,” which would enable travel to certain areas with low incidences of the virus in otherwise restricted countries.

‘Grasp This Last Chance’

Airlines UK said the industry was facing its biggest crisis in decades, with recovery to 2019 levels not expected until at least 2023.

“We are an island and there’s no option but to fly,” UK Airlines wrote, citing the need to preserve the “world-beating connectivity” the airline industry facilitates for the UK.

“You must grasp this last chance to save the aviation industry, and with it so much prosperity across the UK,” Airlines UK said.

UK-based airlines have already announced or started consultations on over 30,000 job losses and more could follow at airports and in related sectors.

“With 79 percent of international visitors to the UK arriving by air, we play a vital role in supporting half a million jobs across leisure, retail, hospitality, and entertainment,” Airlines UK said.

“Our cities, high streets, and world-class attractions will simply not recover until they return.”

Further job losses are expected in the winter across the UK aviation sector, traditionally the travel industry’s weaker season.

Reuters contributed to this report