Airlines allowed their pilots and cabin crew to join forces with travel agents and other workers from across the British aviation industry to take part in a coordinated ‘Travel Day of Action’ on Wednesday – a plea to the government to ease some of the toughest international travel restrictions in the world or risk the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs.
Workers at Glasgow International Airport spelt out the word ‘HELP’ on what should have been a busy airfield using airport vehicles that have been sat idle due to the “devastating impact” that the pandemic continues to wreak on the British travel industry.
The entire sector had been hopeful that the creation of a traffic light system dreamt up by the government to grade different countries based on their virus risk would kick start the industry and allow Brits to go on holiday or visit friends and family that they’ve been separated from for more than 15 months.
Instead, government ministers declared most countries as too dangerous to travel to and told Brits to put off international travel until next year at the earliest. Confidence was further knocked when Portugal, one of only a handful of countries to make the safe ‘Green list’, was removed with little notice over fears of a yet to be classified variant.
“The Government has to decide if this summer it will make or break the UK travel industry,” slammed Brian Strutton, acting general secretary of the BALPA pilots union. “With a robust and open approach to the data, we should be able to use the science to open up safe travel routes with the US and many European destinations, just as other European countries have done.”
Strutton and other pilots were hoping to meet with politicians today to argue their case for lifting travel restrictions and extending government support schemes for the industry.
Elsewhere, cabin crew and other aviation workers protested outside the Houses of Parliament in London and the Scottish Parliament building in Holyrood. The likes of Virgin Atlantic and easyJet showed their support for the campaign on social media.
The industry is hoping the UK will adopt similar travel rules as much of Europe – allowing fully-vaccinated travellers to enter the country from the majority of destinations without the need to quarantine or even take a COVID-19 test.
In recent days, government ministers have begun to shift their position on fully vaccinated travellers, saying they would be open to dropping isolation rules from Amber List countries but expensive pre-departure and post-arrival testing could remain for some time to come.
The industry estimates that 860,000 jobs in UK aviation, travel and tourism have been lost or are on furlough and are at risk of being lost. The government says it has made billions of pounds available to the industry but the furlough scheme will be wound down at the end of September.
“With no clear recovery plan on the horizon and a lack any significant and meaningful support from government, the thousands of people currently working within our industry face an uncertain future,” commented Derek Provan, Chief Executive of AGS Airports Ltd, which owns and operates Aberdeen, Glasgow and Southampton airports.
The government is set to review the traffic light system by June 28 but no significant changes are expected to be announced until all domestic restrictions are lifted on July 19. From there, ministers have suggested that isolation rules from Amber List countries, such as Spain, France, Portugal and the United States, could be dropped for fully vaccinated travellers beginning in August.
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.