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Airlines call on UK government to prevent “permanent scarring” of industry

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Top executives from major UK airlines have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, requesting financial assistance for aviation as well as a relaxation of COVID-19 testing rules for travelers.

Following the discovery of the Omicron strain of COVID-19, the United Kingdom resumed pre-departure tests for visitors, as well as mandating a PCR test within two days of arrival. The restrictions apply to all newcomers, including those who are fully vaccinated.

Executives from British Airways, easyJet, Ryanair, and Virgin Atlantic indicated that while they understand the necessity to limit the new COVID-19 type, they believe the tourism industry has been unfairly targeted with “disproportionate restrictions.”

“Further, pre-departure and upon-arrival testing clearly add very little value to our Covid protection, but unnecessarily disrupt Christmas for families as well as businesses while severely damaging the UK travel industry,” they state in the letter, published by industry lobby group Airlines UK on December 13, 2021.

Customers’ willingness to book trips has been harmed by the current travel restrictions, according to the airlines, who warn that they risk “killing off” the travel business. They demanded an immediate meeting with the authorities.

“We urgently request you meet with us, to understand the problems that we and our customers are now facing because of these measures, which the Transport Secretary himself admitted risked ‘killing off’ the travel industry. We urge you to act now to prevent this from happening.”

The airline Emirates has previously stated that December is a critical month for bookings, and that any restrictions imposed as a result of the new variation might cause “major” problems for the aviation industry, which was only beginning to recover from the pandemic.

The Christmas and New Year booking season can account for up to 30% of ticket sales, according to UK airlines, and the UK government must take steps to prevent the aviation industry from being “permanently scarred.”

They believe that during the next formal assessment of COVID-19 measures on December 20, 2021, emergency testing for fully vaccinated passengers should be phased out.

“A package of bespoke economic support measures should be provided immediately to bridge the sector through this crisis,” they also said, noting that the industry supports over 500,000 direct jobs throughout the UK.

The letter is signed by:

  • Andrew Flintham, Managing Director, Tui UK & Ireland
  • Eddie Wilson, CEO, Ryanair
  • Johan Lundgren, CEO, easyJet
  • Jonathan Hinkles, CEO, Loganair
  • Sean Doyle, CEO, British Airways
  • Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic
  • Steve Heapy, CEO, Jet2.com
  • Tim Alderslade, CEO, Airlines UK
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