The bosses of easyJet and Ryanair both say a 14-day mandatory quarantine for all new arrivals into the United Kingdom is likely to be quashed by the courts after the normally fierce rivals joined forces with British Airways to launch a legal challenge against the measures. The quarantine rules came into effect today as part of measures introduced by the government to supposedly prevent a “second wave” of the novel Coronavirus sweeping through the country.
Michael O’Leary, the often outspoken chief executive of Ryanair has labelled the quarantine measures as “ineffective” and “rubbish” and has vowed to continue flying to and from the UK because the rules are unenforceable. Priti Patel, the Home Secretary said the quarantine rules will be reviewed every three weeks and have been introduced as a result of scientific evidence – she has refused to make that evidence public.
From today, anyone arriving in the UK must isolate for 14-days whether they show symptoms of COVID-19 or not. Rule breakers risk a £1,000 fine but those who are told to self-isolate are allowed to take public transport to their quarantine address, can leave the house to go shopping and are allowed to swap addresses during the 14-day isolation period.
“I think in their heart of hearts, the government would like the courts to strike it down because it would get them off the hook,” O’Leary told Reuters on Monday. “I think either the courts will strike it down this week or the government will quietly drop it before the end of June,” he continued.
Johan Lundgren, the chief executive of easyJet claimed today that their legal case had a good chance of winning, describing the quarantine as “something that has been rushed through. It’s not in proportion (to the problem faced)”.
If the quarantine rules do continue for some time, however, Lundgren warned that further jobs losses would be likely. easyJet has already announced plans to make up to 4,500 of its employees redundant because of the decimating effects the COVID-19 pandemic is having on the aviation industry.
The fear of further losses was shared by Heathrow Airport boss John Holland-Kaye who blasted the government for putting hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk. “We cannot go on like this as a country,” he told Sky News. “We need to start planning to reopen our borders.”
“If we don’t get aviation moving again quickly, in a very safe way, then we are going to lose hundreds of thousands if not millions of jobs in the UK just at the time when we need to be rebuilding our economy.”
In a rare show of agreement with the airlines, the Unite union said the government had a “moral duty” to support the aviation industry if it pressed ahead with the quarantine measures. Unite’s head of aviation Oliver Richardson again called on lawmakers to publish the evidence that apparently proves the quarantine measures are required or even supported by scientific experts.
Industry has been wary of criticising drastic public health measures designed to keep people safe from the novel Coronavirus but the quarantine rules have united businesses across the aviation sector in their most vocal message of disapproval yet. The government is said to be considering “air bridges” with countries that aren’t COVID-19 hotspots although no such agreements have yet been reached.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.