May 11, 2020 / 4:38 PM / 20 days ago

British aviation bosses warn quarantine plans will damage sector

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain’s plans for travellers to quarantine for 14 days after arriving in the country will worsen an already grave situation for the aviation sector, industry leaders said on Monday, saying that the government needed to set out a road-map to normality.

FILE PHOTO: Easyjet planes are seen parked at Luton airport after Easyjet announced it has grounded its entire fleet, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, Luton, Britain, March 30, 2020. REUTERS/Matthew Childs/File Photo

The government plans to introduce a quarantine period for most people arriving from abroad to try to avoid a second peak of the coronavirus outbreak, but has not given a clear indication of when it will be introduced or for how long it will last.

The measures might result in the continued grounding of planes, airport and airline bosses said in a letter to government, adding they did not know whether this was an intended outcome of the move as there had been no consultation with the sector.

“An open-ended quarantine, with no set end-date, will make an already critical situation for UK aviation, and all the businesses we support, even worse,” said the letter, signed by industry associations for airlines and airports as well as the chief executives of easyJet and Heathrow Airport.

“People will simply choose not to travel to and from the UK ... In short, passenger travel cannot restart.”

easyJet has grounded its fleet in response to travel restrictions and low demand, but some airlines are beginning to restart flights.

Earlier on Monday, Wizz Air’s chief executive told Reuters he needed more details on British quarantine plans before being able to assess its impact after seeing strong demand for the routes it has started operating. The the boss of British Airways owner IAG has also raised concerns about the quarantine plan.

The letter said there was no clarity on the scientific advice underpinning the proposals, its geographic scope or whether it only applied to air travel. The foreign minister said that ports and airports were included in the proposals, and France has said it would be excluded from the measures.

The letter added that aviation needed “a road-map to normality” and any quarantine should be as short as possible, saying other measures could be used instead.

“We are working at pace with Government to agree a set of new, effective health protocols guided by the science (such as face masks and temperature checks) and which can be implemented at UK airports and onboard as soon as possible,” it said.

Asked about support for the aviation sector in parliament on Monday, Johnson said that companies had access to schemes designed to support businesses more broadly.

“We will do everything we can to ... keep Britain flying and get Britain flying again,” he said.

Reporting by Alistair Smout; editing by Stephen Addison

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