IAG’s chief executive Willie Walsh has warned against the introduction of a 14-day quarantine period for travellers arriving into the UK by, a restriction which prime minister Boris Johnson said would be imposed “soon”.
In an appearance in front of the Transport Select Committee today (May 11), Walsh said that there was “nothing positive in anything I heard the prime minister say”.
IAG last week announced plans for “a meaningful return to service in July this year”, but Walsh told the Committee that “I think we’ll have to review that based on what the prime minister said yesterday”.
“Despite the fact that there had been some rumours of this quarantine period, I don’t think anyone thought that UK government would actually implement it, if they are serious about getting the UK economy moving again,” continued Walsh.
“We will have to review the situation. It wouldn’t really impact us today, as quite honestly there are very few people flying into or out of the UK at this time, and the same would apply throughout the rest of this month and in June.”
But Walsh said that the decision to introduce a quarantine “seems strange to me”… “given that we had been expecting governments and the world to start easing restrictions”.
“We will have to review the impact of that and make an assessment in terms of the capacity we are likely to operate if a quarantine period applies. At this stage I would imagine that our capacity into and out of the UK would be pretty minimal in that event,” said Walsh.
It is understood that the quarantine will apply to travellers arriving into the UK by all methods of transport, but those arriving from the Republic of Ireland and France will be exempt.
Industry bodies have also reacted to the planned introduction of a quarantine, with Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines UK stating:
“Public health must of course be the priority and we respect the Sage advice. We all – including Government – need to adapt to the new normal but closing off air travel in this way is not the way to achieve this.
“Ministers are effectively telling people they can no longer travel for the foreseeable future and airlines will respond to that by grounding their operations – and that is why they require urgent additional Government support to get through this growing crisis.”
Pilots union BALPA also questioned the move, with general secretary Brian Strutton commenting:
“We haven’t seen the scientific basis for the possible 14 day quarantine proposal, nor any risk assessments for the health and wellbeing of crew.
“There are too many open questions. What is the Government’s plan for aviation? How does it all fit together? Is the UK acting consistently with other jurisdictions or going it alone? And crucially, will the government pay for airlines to fly inefficiently due to the government’s imposed restrictions?
“My concern is that once again the Government has not considered the impacts on pilots and other crew facing job losses and pay cuts – there has to be a moratorium on these threats and a viable plan to support aviation. It’s high time the Government got its act together.”