Virgin Atlantic delays resuming flights until at least August because of UK quarantine restrictions

May 27, 2020

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Virgin Atlantic says it will be forced to delay the resumption of its operations as a result of the U.K.’s mandatory 14-day self-isolation for arriving international passengers. The airline said on Monday that because of the restrictions and the effect they’ll have on travel demand, it won’t resume flights until at least August.

Last week, the U.K. government unveiled its policy regarding the soon-to-be-implemented mandatory 14-day self-isolation for all arriving international travellers. When the restrictions take effect as of 8 June, all arriving travellers will be required to isolate with very few exceptions, such as those coming from Ireland, essential medical workers and more.

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The decision to not offer a wider variety of exemptions was contested by the already-crippled tourism and aviation industries, which said that the restrictions would further debilitate tourism and travel to the U.K.

“The safety and security of our people and our customers is always our top priority and public health must come first”, a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson said in a statement to Business Traveller. “However, by introducing a mandatory 14-day self-isolation for every single traveller entering the U.K., the government’s approach will prevent flights from resuming.

“We are continually reviewing our flying programme and with these restrictions, there simply won’t be sufficient demand to resume passenger services before August at the earliest”.

Virgin has been open about its struggling financial situation made worse by the coronavirus crisis. In April, the airline’s founder Sir Richard Branson said that the Virgin Atlantic would collapse if it didn’t get government support. At points during the month, the airline had completely suspended passenger operations, flying just cargo operations.

Now, the carrier is electing to bypass restarting its passenger operations until at least August because of the U.K.’s isolation restrictions for arriving travellers.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said last week that the government would review the restrictions every three weeks. At some point, the government may introduce the concept of “air bridges”, which would, in effect, exempt travellers coming from certain low-risk countries from the mandatory isolation.

Related: Everything we know about the UK’s mandatory 14-day mandatory quarantine

Elsewhere in the U.K., Virgin Atlantic’s rival carrier British Airways said it may have to consider the same. During the first-quarter earnings call of BA’s parent company International Airlines Group (IAG), CEO Willie Walsh said that the group was planning to make a “meaningful return to service” in July. However, in light of the mandatory isolation requirement for arriving travellers, Walsh later said the group may have to rethink that July restart.

Other airlines around the U.K. have unveiled plans for a return to service. EasyJet, for example, said it would resume domestic flights as of 15 June.

Featured photo by BEN STANSALL/AFP via Getty Images.

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