Sean Doyle, chief executive of British Airways, joined 10 other leaders from across the UK’s aviation industry on Tuesday demanding a “bespoke package” of financial support to help airlines survive a prolonged period of travel restrictions that are set to get even tougher as early as Wednesday.
“The government cannot achieve its Global Britain aspiration without airlines and airports, whose existence as private enterprises cannot be taken for granted,” the open letter from trade body Airlines UK warned. Other signatories of the letter included Shai Weiss, chief executive of Virgin Atlantic, Johan Lundgren, CEO of easyJet and David Burling who heads TUI’s airline business.
“As things stand, aviation is in danger of being one of the first sectors to close, and the last to re-open,” the letter continued. “UK airlines cannot survive a second summer season without meaningful revenue, or additional support.”
Under current lockdown rules, only essential travel is permitted, and anyone entering the UK must self-isolate for up to 10-days. A pre-departure test taken within 72-hours of departure was also recently introduced, and the government is poised to restrict travel even further by sending all arriving passengers into mandatory hotel quarantine.
The government has not said when it plans to ease its current lockdown or how long the quarantine rules would be in place. Travel bans remain in force for South Africa, Brazil, Portugal and much of South America.
The airline leaders warned Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the travel restrictions his government introduced now put as many as 1.56 million jobs at “immediate risk” and that the UK faced “untold economic damage” with each day that the restrictions remain in place.
While the leaders say they have “fully supported” the government’s approach thus far, the industry now needed bespoke support and an “urgent roadmap for the reopening of air travel”.
“Policy should be based on evidence,” the letter told Johnson. “And we have seen no compelling scientific evidence that introducing a policy potentially of blanket quarantine in hotels, is necessary in addition to measures only recently introduced.”
“What is clear is the dramatic impact that restrictions – both current and should hotel quarantine be introduced – will continue to have both on UK airlines, and the wider UK economy”.
In the short term, the leaders warned that the UK could face a shortage of vital medical supplies currently being air freighted from abroad should airlines be forced to suspend all operations in the face of mounting losses.
Last April, the former head of BA’s parent company rejected the idea that UK airlines should receive bespoke financial support, claiming that International Airlines Group (IAG) had plenty of cash reserves to survive the crisis and weaker companies should be allowed to fail.
British Airways did, however, receive an initial £300 million government-backed loan and recently secured an additional £2 billion in state-backed loans.
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 used by some of the biggest names in journalism.