The United Kingdom has established a number of “travel corridors” between nations. By spending time in these nations, territories, or regions, currently numbered at 77, quarantine can be avoided when returning to the UK. But not if return travel involves transit through global hubs like Amsterdam, Frankfurt, or Paris. That renders most “safe” nations impossible to visit without quarantine and presents a major headache for airlines and passengers alike.
UK Travel Corridors Compromised By European Hub Transits
Rwanda is on the UK’s safe list. A visit to Rwanda does not require a quarantine upon return. But the Rwandair flight from Kigali to London makes a technical stop in Brussels. No passengers are boarded, but because the pilot exits the aircraft in order to perform a visual inspection of the aircraft then re-boards, all passengers must quarantine.
That may be the most egregious example, but there are dozens. For example, the Greek islands of Corfu, Crete, Kos, Rhodes, and Zakynthos are on the no-quarantine list. But reaching them requires a transit in Athens. That renders the “travel corridor” worthless in the sense that the transit through Athens Airports forces every returning passenger to quarantine for 14 days (10 days starting on Monday, December 14th). Same story with Dutch Caribbean, which requires transit through Amsterdam or the French Caribbean, which requires transit throughs Paris.
A full list of countries presently included in the UK’s travel corridor is here.
Dale Keller, CEO of the Board of Airline Representatives in the UK, wrote in Business Travel News:
“There is no measurable increase in risk posed by a passenger travelling from a travel corridor country via a secure airside transit at a non-exempt country hub airport, than travelling via any other hub airport in an exempt country.”
Willie Walsh, former British Airways CEO and now the the incoming Director General for IATA, lamented:
“The virus did not stop our customers boarding our aircraft. They have been denied the freedom we provide, not by a virus, but by a disjointed political response and the restrictions put in place by certain governments who have failed to adapt and to adopt the sensible measures that would have allowed almost normal air services to continue.”
The question remains: is Keller correct? How is such risk measured? Is the UK overreacting by not excluding international transit?
Next week, the The UK will introduce a “test-to-release” program, allowing an abbreviated five day quarantine with a negative COVID-19 test when returning from a quarantine country. That should help the matter, but does not solve it. Beyond the annoyance of having to quarantine due to a sterile transit in Western Europe, there are longer term ramifications. Keller added:
“Coming out of this crisis, the global economic race will likely be won by those countries that can most quickly restore their air connectivity and global trade.”
The UK government claims that science is at the heart of its policy decisions. But does transit in Amsterdam or Frankfurt really add sufficient danger to mandate a 10-14 day quarantine?