United Kingdom

Easyjet boss says quarantine policy will scar UK economy

Like all airlines, easyJet has been put in a critical position by coronavirus. This week, I had to announce that we may have to reduce our staff numbers by up to 30 per cent. I am sorry to have had to deliver such terrible news, but this crisis has left us with little choice.

My focus now is to ensure that easyJet survives and that we protect jobs for the long term.

We need to return to flying as soon as possible, but for this to happen, the Government must act fast. Many measures are needed, but quick action on quarantine will be an important part.

easyJet boss Johan Lundgren (pictured) said: 'It was frustrating that the Government chose not to consult our industry on the implementation of the quarantine measures'

The Mail’s Alex Brummer wrote yesterday in stark terms, criticising the decision to quarantine passengers arriving in Britain for two weeks irrespective of where they have come from, from June 8.

Our flights will recommence on June 15, and we want to be able to fly as many people as possible to wherever it is safe to do so.

It was frustrating that the Government chose not to consult our industry on the implementation of the quarantine measures.

Quarantine will severely restrict Britain’s connectivity. It will render many international routes unviable for travellers to the UK.

British holidaymakers and business travellers will think twice about going abroad if they have to quarantine for 14 days on their return.

Should the quarantine remain in place throughout the summer, it will have a huge and lasting impact on the recovery of the economy and on all our lives, just as many economists are predicting the most serious recession in a century.

Revenue from tourism is vital for many parts of the UK, from London to the Scottish Highlands, in cities and towns such as York and Stratford-upon-Avon. Many businesses reliant on this income will be permanently scarred by the impact of the proposed quarantine.

Business recovery will also be linked to the ability to travel. I acknowledge that this period has shown us the potential of using video calls for work. But it has also demonstrated what we miss through not having face-to-face meetings.

British exporters will soon be competing on a screen against other businesses that can travel in person.

An exemption for business travel alone will not solve these issues, as the vast majority of passengers travel for leisure. Without leisure travel, few routes on any airline would be viable.

easyJet boss Johan Lundgren said: 'Quarantine will severely restrict Britain’s connectivity. It will render many international routes unviable for travellers to the UK'

And, of course, there is the impact of any quarantine on our wellbeing. Travelling on holiday is something that families across the UK save up for and look forward to – not to mention all those vital visits to see loved ones abroad.

Quarantine will not only make all of this much harder – it runs against the trend we can see across the world and in Europe.

The main European tourist markets, such as Greece and Spain, anticipate reopening safely to visitors from July.

Germany is expected to lift its quarantine, and France is also expected to open up to European visitors.

Even Italy, which suffered so much from Covid, is looking to facilitate international travel.

So how can the UK safely reconnect to the rest of the world? Boris Johnson has outlined a sensible way forward: The implementation of ‘air bridges’. These would allow for travel between countries where Covid-19 is under control and where effective health measures are in place.

I support the Prime Minister’s objective, and believe it is critical for these air bridges to be established quickly wherever it is safe to do so.

'Travelling on holiday is something that families across the UK save up for and look forward to – not to mention all those vital visits to see loved ones abroad,' said the easyJet boss

Speed is important. If the Government announces an air bridge for a new country from tomorrow, this does not mean we can start flying immediately.

Anyone hoping to go on their summer holiday in July needs to know what air bridges will be in place.

So we propose four key steps for the Government to take.

First, the quarantine should be scrapped. In its place, air bridges should be arranged between countries, such as Greece, where the number of new Covid-19 cases is close to zero.

Second, clear criteria for air bridges should be published so that new ones can be put in place as soon as possible. We see no need to wait for a periodic review.

Third, the number of air bridges should be maximised, where this is safe.

Finally, where the science allows, governments should look at the possibility of introducing ‘Covid passports’ identifying passengers who have been infected and are therefore immune. Rapid testing prior to departure or on arrival may help to make this possible.

The first priority of any airline is to ensure that its passengers can fly safely. We encourage measures to support this, but a blanket quarantine is too blunt an instrument.

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