Beleaguered airports face being mothballed after Boris Johnson suspended all of Britain’s quarantine-free travel corridors from tomorrow.
The Prime Minister announced on Friday that anyone arriving in the UK from 4am tomorrow will have to produce a negative coronavirus test and quarantine for up to ten days as part of a desperate bid to prevent more mutant strains from entering the UK.
All flights from South America, Portugal and Cape Verde have been banned in response to a deadly new strain that originated in Brazil.
Passengers seen at BA check-in desks at Heathrow Airport in London on January 15 this year, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (file photo)
The announcement has deepened the crisis faced by the travel and aviation industries and prompted fears of further widespread job losses.
Airlines were this weekend believed to be drawing up plans to further slash the number of flights they operate, with announcements expected in the coming days.
Jet2 has already cancelled all flights and holidays until the end of March. British Airways said its schedule was ‘dynamic’ and advised passengers to check its website.
Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators’ Association, warned airports may soon have to close temporarily.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson pictured during a media briefing on coronavirus in Downing Street, London, on January 15 this year
...but it's OK for some
Umar Kamani, 32, pictured with his Arabic model girlfriend Nada Adelle
More than 20 senior staff from the online clothing giant Boohoo flew to Dubai last week despite official guidance against international travel.
They made the 3,400-mile trip last Sunday by private jet.
Sources at the Manchester firm say they met Umar Kamani, 32, owner of retailer Pretty Little Thing and son of Boohoo owner Mahmud Kamani. They were due to return last Friday, but some are thought to have stayed.
Boohoo insisted the staff were tested before they left the UK and Dubai, adding: ‘This business trip to meet suppliers was planned extremely carefully in accordance with current guidance.’
‘There is only so long they can run on fumes before having to close temporarily to preserve their business for the future,’ she said.
Gatwick, Britain’s second largest airport, has temporarily closed its South Terminal and is cutting 600 jobs – about a quarter of its workforce – while Heathrow has closed Terminals Three and Four.
But regional airports face the greatest pressure. Newquay Airport is already closed to commercial flights until mid-February, while Exeter Airport was saved by a £1 million bailout from its local council in October.
Airport bosses said the latest restrictions were ‘understandable’ but are furious at the Government’s constant changes of policy.
‘We have had a different travel policy every day of the week this week,’ one senior aviation source told The Mail on Sunday. Another industry source added: ‘The Government is layering restriction on restriction on restriction. Our main concern is how we get out of this when it is safe to do so.’
There is also mounting fury at the lack of taxpayer-funded support for struggling airports. The Government last year agreed to pay a subsidy, worth up to £8 million per airport, to help them pay business rates – but the scheme has still not been launched and even when it is, it will cover just a fraction of the costs paid by the major airports.
‘The supermarkets were given business rate alleviation some 11 months ago and subsequently returned it because they haven’t been closed down and they experienced a boom in profits,’ one senior airport source said.
‘But aviation and airports, who have now ostensibly been closed for the third time, have had nothing from the Government and the industry is p****d off.’
While holiday travel is already banned, the scrapping of the travel corridors will affect business travellers and expat Britons flying home. There were 63 countries on the list, including South Korea, Thailand, Hong Kong, Norway, Iceland, Gibraltar and five Greek islands. The Government will review the measures on February 15.
A Government spokesman said it had provided ‘a comprehensive package of measures including extending the furlough scheme until the end of April, business rates relief and tax deferrals’.