The British travel industry is demanding to know how the UK intends to ease tough new travel restrictions which include the threat of 10-years in prison for lying about going on holiday (three more years than the maximum punishment for rape). One trade group said the industry was now “battling to survive” after the upcoming and crucial summer season was effectively cancelled.
On Wednesday morning, Britain’s transport minister Grant Shapps suggested a travel ban which was brought in just before Christmas would not be rolled back until every adult in the UK and perhaps even around the world had received a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus.
Shapps also wrongly told viewers that it is currently illegal to book a holiday. While it is against the law to travel for leisure under existing lockdown rules, travel companies had been banking on consumers booking flights and holiday packages for travel over the summer when they had been expecting travel restrictions to ease.
Research conducted by easyJet revealed that 65% of European consumers planned to take a leisure flight at some point this year. But as a result of current restrictions, the Luton-based low-cost airline has slashed its schedule to just 10 per cent of 2019’s levels.
“Most important now is that the government comes out with a plan on how they’re going to unwind these restrictions,” commented easyJet’s chief executive Johan Lundgren during a CAPA aviation conference on Wednesday.
“I’m positive for a strong summer if the vaccination programmes are successful, if it works on the variants… then we know that there’s a big urgent need for the government to unwind these restrictions,” he continued.
As well as a ban on travellers leaving England, all arriving passengers must obtain a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of travel and from Monday will have to take two more tests on day two and day eight of a mandatory 10-day isolation period. Travellers from high-risk ‘red list’ countries will be made to quarantine in designated hotels at a cost of £1,750 per person.
Fines for breaking the rules range from £1,000 to £10,000, as well as the threat of imprisonment for lying on a passenger locator form. Shapps refused to speculate when the restrictions could be eased but Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to set out a ‘roadmap’ to end lockdown on February 22nd.
“Airlines are drowning, but rather than throwing us a life raft, the Transport Secretary has just thrown a bucket of cold water at us,” commented the BALPA pilots union in response to the minister’s comments.
“If the effect of Government action is to shut down this whole sector then it stands to reason the Government must compensate for lost business. The UK aviation sector cannot survive another summer with hardly any flying.”
Trade body Airlines UK, which represents the likes of British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and TUI Airlines, also called for aviation-specific financial support. The government recently announced it was working on industry-specific support but did not say when its proposals might be ready.
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.