Airlines in the United Kingdom are pushing back against the latest government restrictions on travel, warning the measures have already destabilized and may create a “permanent scarring” of the airline industry.
UK Airlines Push Back Against Government’s “Haphazard” Approach To Omicron Variant
In a joint letter signed by the CEOs of airlines including British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, easyJet, and Ryanair, the government’s response to the omicron variant is questioned.
As leaders of U.K. airlines, we are deeply concerned about the haphazard and disproportionate approach by government to travel restrictions following the emergence of the omicron variant. Whilst we fully recognise the need to take steps to contain the initial impact of the Omicron variant, travel has been singled out with the introduction of 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
The airlines want testing dropped for fully-vaccinated passengers. Before omicron, vaccinated passengers needed only a lateral flow test upon arrival in the UK, an inexpensive and widely-available test. Now, even vaccinated passengers must obtain a PCR test before departing for the UK and again after arriving. Furthermore, proof must be shown of advance booking, which adds a burden of paperwork and expenses that has deterred many from flying.
Airlines note that the holiday season is critical for their bottom line and account for a period in which 30% of annual ticket sales take place.
Government leaders will meet on December 20th to discuss omicron measures, which promoted the airline letter. Not only do airlines want the testing requirement loosened, they also want economic support to “bridge the sector through the crisis.”
That includes both an extension of existing loans and additional grants to aid payroll in a model much like the United States’ Payroll Support Plan (PSP).
Airlines in the UK are frustrated at what they see as a “haphazard” and “disproportionate” response to the omicron variant, that unfairly targets airlines. By mounting a public campaign against the government, the airlines hope to gain momentum ahead of a December 20th evaluation of current travel policy. If flights bans and onerous testing requirements continue, the airlines plan to request a fresh round of government support.