August 8, 2022

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The British airline industry has called for a new package of economic support and for...

The British airline industry has called for a new package of economic support and for the additional testing of fully vaccinated passengers to be scrapped, in a public attack on the latest UK travel restrictions aimed at tackling the spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant.
The chief executives of British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Ryanair and easyJet described the new pre- and post-departure testing of UK-bound passengers as “disproportionate” and at risk of causing “permanent scarring” to the industry.
The open letter, which was also signed by the heads of Loganair, Jet2, Tui and the industry association Airlines UK, was published early on Monday ahead of a meeting between executives and government officials later in the day.
“Whilst we fully recognise the need to take steps to contain the initial impact of the Omicron variant, travel has been singled out with the introduction of disproportionate restrictions,” the executives said.
“Further, pre-departure and upon-arrival testing clearly add very little value to our Covid protection, but unnecessarily disrupt Christmas for families as well as businesses while severely damaging the UK travel industry,” the executives added.


Under the new measures, travellers to the UK must take a PCR coronavirus test before departure and after arrival, adding expense and complication to journeys. Previously, fully vaccinated passengers were only required to take one lateral flow test, two days after landing.
The airline industry has asked for those measures to be scrapped when they are formally reviewed by the government on December 20 and for new economic support to “bridge the sector through the crisis”.
Airline executives will request an extension to outstanding pandemic loans issued by the government and, if the travel restrictions are not lifted soon, a new aviation sector furlough scheme, according to one person familiar with the sector’s thinking. Given the level of debt already taken on by some airlines, the industry is also likely to ask for grant support, the person added.
Before the alarm caused by the Omicron variant, the airline industry had just begun to recover after 20 months of disruption.
That recovery is now stalling, the executives said, with the new restrictions disrupting travel and threating to dent customer sentiment ahead of the crucial new year booking season, when up to 30 per cent of annual tickets are sold.
The World Health Organization has already urged governments not to impose “blanket bans” on travel, such as the UK’s red list, which prevents visitors from designated countries from travelling to the UK and forces all returning UK nationals and residents to quarantine in official hotels for 10 days.
The airline executives said they had seen “immediate problems with red list arrivals”, such as official hotels that were not ready or were fully booked, stranding travellers abroad.
Given that the UK Health Security Agency expects Omicron to overtake Delta as the dominant coronavirus variant in the UK by mid-December, many of the restrictions were no longer needed, the executives added.

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