Sean Doyle, the recently appointed chief executive of British Airways has warned in an opinion piece in the Sun on Sunday that there could be more job losses on the horizon unless travel restrictions are significantly eased in time for the summer.
Last year, the Heathrow-based airline shed more than 10,000 jobs in its response to the pandemic, drawing ire from its own employees, trade unions and lawmakers.
The British government is set to lift a blanket ban on non-essential international travel on May 17 but only a handful of countries are likely to make the so-called ‘Green List’ with the fewest restrictions. Even then, Doyle worries that many families could be priced out of a holiday because of expensive PCR testing rules.
“British people should be benefiting from the world-leading vaccination programme that is not only stopping us getting seriously ill but is reducing the spread of the virus,” Doyle argues.
“If you’ve been vaccinated and you are coming back home from a low-risk ‘green’ country where there’s also a high rate of vaccination and a low rate of infection, you shouldn’t have to take an expensive test as the Government demands,” he continues.
British Airways has managed to reduce the cost of a post-arrival PCR test to just £60, although even that could be too expensive for many travellers. Instead, Doyle wants vaccinated travellers to be fully exempted from testing rules, while those still waiting or unable to have the jab should be allowed to take a single cheap rapid test.
“For people who haven’t been vaccinated, the science shows that a single rapid Covid test can detect almost all cases,” Doyle claims.
“Health Secretary Matt Hancock says these affordable tests, which are being used in care homes and schools and give results in 30 minutes, are “extremely accurate”.”
Doyle also hits out at the lack of progress on vaccination passports, saying that the airline industry has already developed the mobile apps to make them a reality but is still waiting for governments to find ways to link the apps with health records that prove vaccination status.
Ministers have been warned that unless they approve vaccination passports (that would also show proof of testing status) in time for the summer then arriving passengers trying to enter the UK could face six or seven-hour queues at the border.
The government, however, are fearful that relaxing existing travel restrictions too soon could lead to a spike in infections and the importation of vaccine-resistant virus variants.
There are now 40 countries on the UK’s ‘Red List’ from which travellers must spend 10-days in an approved quarantine hotel. Only British and Irish nationals, as well as those with residence rights in the UK, are allowed to travel from these countries and in some cases direct flights have also been suspended.
Doyle would rather see a “risk-based approach” that “rewards Britons for their efforts” by opening up much of Europe and the United States as soon as possible. If not, it’s not just summer holidays that could be lost.
“To date, tens of thousands of jobs have already been lost and there are still thousands of people on furlough.”
“The future remains uncertain for our industry and my fear is that if the Government doesn’t make safe travel simpler, there will be more job losses and more businesses will be lost,” Doyle warns.
Photo Credit: British Airways
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.