Scores of pilots and cabin crew from both British Airways and Ryanair have been forced into a mandatory 14-day quarantine after working on flights from Denmark back to the United Kingdom. As well as the flight crew, their entire households will also be forced to self-isolate for two weeks as the British government moves quickly to prevent a “mutant” strain of the novel Coronavirus entering Britain.
Ryanair has hit out at the tough new policy, arguing its British-based crew never even entered Denmark, remained on the aircraft on arrival and left within 30-minutes of landing in the country. But so seriously is the strain of COVID-19 that leapt from farmed mink to humans being taken that the British government has barred all exemptions from its quarantine requirements.
Faced with the prospect of forcing hundreds of flight crew into quarantine, both Ryanair and British Airways have cancelled all scheduled flights to Denmark for the foreseeable future. Stranded British citizens looking to get home could have flown with Scandanavian carrier SAS but even that option was removed late on Saturday night.
Saying that it was acting on further information from the Danish health authorities, the British Department for Transport announced in the early hours that it would ban all direct flights from Denmark landing in England (there are separate rules for other UK nations).
“Given the significant unknowns regarding the new mutation of COVID-19 originating in Denmark we have moved quickly to protect our citizens and prevent the spread of the virus to the UK,” the government department announced on Saturday night.
New rules bar visitors from Denmark entering the UK, while all British citizens, along with their households have to self-isolate for two weeks on their return. Uniquely, there are no exemptions to these rules, including cabin crew.
“We have been notified at short notice by the UK Department of Transport that our crews cannot operate flights to/from Denmark without 14-day quarantine upon return to the UK, despite the fact they never leave the aircraft during their 25-minute turnaround on the ground in Copenhagen airport,” a spokesperson for Ryanair told The Independent.
“We appealed this baseless decision to the DfT this morning, explaining that there is no scientific basis for any such 14-day aircrew quarantine, but were advised that the transport minister Grant Shapps had made this decision and it cannot be changed,” the spokesperson continued.
“We, therefore, have no choice but to cancel all flights to/from Denmark with immediate effect until this bizarre and baseless 14-day aircrew quarantine is removed.”
The spokesperson said it had so far had no reports of any member of Ryanair cabin crew catching or passing on COVID-19 on one of its aircraft since new safety measures, like the mandatory wearing of masks, was introduced in July.
The quarantining of flight crew has been strongly discouraged by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) unless the crew have had significant exposure to someone who is confirmed to be infected with the novel Coronavirus.
Earlier this year, New Zealand forced crew arriving in the country from ‘high risk’ countries to quarantine on arrival but a test taken on their return released them as soon as the result was returned negative.
British Airways has been contacted for comment.
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.