Airlines threaten legal action as UK pushes forward with mandatory 14-day quarantine on arrival

Jun 8, 2020

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As of Monday, 8 June, the U.K.’s mandatory 14-day quarantine for all arriving travellers has taken effect. The controversial measure has been vastly opposed by the already-crippled tourism and aviation industries, which say that requiring all passenger to quarantine for 14 days will deter anyone from coming to the U.K.

Related: Everything you need to know about the UK’s mandatory 14-day quarantine for international arrivals

British Airways, EasyJet and Ryanair executives have loudly opposed the restrictions, calling it “unfair” and “disproportionate”. On Friday, BA’s parent company IAG, along with EasyJet and Ryanair threatened to take legal action against the government for imposing the strict measures.

“We think that there’s enough evidence and there’s a strong case here that this should be challenged by the courts”, EasyJet CEO Johan Lundgren told SkyNews on Monday. “This is something that has been rushed through. It’s not in proportion”.

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said on Monday that it would still continue flying to and from the U.K., despite the restrictions. He said that although the restrictions appear to have deterred from European tourists from holidaying in the U.K., Brits are still booking holidays abroad.

“The flights are full outbound of the U.K.”, O’Leary said. “British people are ignoring this quarantine, they know it’s rubbish”.

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While airlines have voiced their opposition to the restrictions, they are continuing to outline plans for a continuation of service. British Airways plans to resume 40% of its network in the month of July, including 29 long-haul routes. EasyJet announced that it plans to resume domestic U.K. flights as of 15 June, before resuming 75% of its international operations by the end of August. Ryanair, meanwhile, plans to resume 40% of its operations in July.

Related: When will we start flying again? UK airlines share when flights will resume

A number of Europeans countries have announced their plans to open borders to tourists. The popular holiday destination of Greece announced last week that British tourists would be allowed to visit from 15 June, subject to a coronavirus test.

Related: Why your summer holiday to Greece looks promising

London Heathrow, the country’s largest airport, said on Monday that it may need to cut one-third of its workforce if the government doesn’t show any signs that it may ease quarantine restrictions on arriving passengers. During the peak of the coronavirus crisis, it eliminated one-third of operating costs and management posts. However, it avoided permanent job cuts for frontline workers.

The airport’s CEO John Holland-Kaye said it may have to revisit that decision, according to Bloomberg.

“We are very close to having to make a decision on that”, he said. “That’s why I really want to push the government to give us some clarity, one way or the other, about whether we can reopen borders”.

As of Monday, all arriving passengers — including British nationals — will be required to self-isolate for 14 days with few exemptions. Prior to arriving, passengers will need to fill out an arrival card with an address where they plan to carry out the 14-day isolation. Officials will reportedly conduct spot checks to ensure travellers abide by the restrictions. Those found to be in violation can be fined £1,000.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said that the policy will be revisited every three weeks. There remains the possibility that travellers coming from low-risk countries could be exempt from the quarantine requirements by the implementation of “air bridges”.

The Home Office declined to comment on the potential legal action by IAG, EasyJet and Ryanair. Last week, spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson James Slack said that the government wants to work with the airline industry as the country comes out of lockdown.

Featured photo by JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP via Getty Images.

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