Britain’s aviation regulator slapped airlines with more than 1,620 fines in the first six months of 2021 for failing to properly check whether passengers were complying with confusing and constantly changing pandemic travel rules. The worst offenders were Qatar Airways and low-cost carriers Ryanair and Eastern Europe’s Wizz Air.
Qatar Airways stands out for the fact that the Persian Gulf state of Qatar was added to England’s travel ban ‘Red List’ in March and was only removed last month. The Red List rules, which included a temporary flight ban and mandatory hotel quarantine, means the Doha-based carrier’s passenger loads would have been substantially affected.
The carrier was issued with a total of 178 fixed penalty notices with fines ranging from £2,000 to £4,000 per passenger. Qatar Airways failed mostly in making sure passenger’s had completed a mandatory locator form for COVID-19 contact tracing.
According to figures released by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), Qatar Airways’ rivals Emirates and Etihad Airways didn’t receive any fines in the same period.
British Airways copped a total of 88 fixed penalty notices, including 61 for failing to make sure that passengers had evidence of negative pre-departure COVID-19 taken within three days of departure.
The Heathrow-based airline was also fined on six occasions for failing to make sure that passengers arriving from high-risk ‘Red List’ countries had a quarantine hotel booked. Qatar received 15 fixed penalty notices for the same offence.
But it was Hungary’s Wizz Air that was the CAA’s worst offender in the first six months of 2021 with a total of 329 fixed penalty notices, mostly for failing to check the passenger locator form had been completed.
Qatar Airways came in second place and Ryanair was the third-worst offender with 137 fines during the same period.
In an effort to relieve lengthy queues at airport immigration halls, the British government shifted responsibility for checking pandemic travel paperwork onto airlines – in much the same way that airlines already have to check passengers have the correct visas or face a fine for carrying an inadmissible traveller.
Border Force officers have been randomly checking that passengers are compliant with COVID-19 travel rules and travellers also face stiff penalties for failing to complete the required paperwork correctly. The CAA then has the power to issue a separate penalty against the airline.
In a statement, the CAA said that it estimated passenger compliance with the various travel rules to be as high as 99.7 per cent or even higher.
Photo Credit: Qatar 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 relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.