LONDON, Feb 18 (Reuters) - Britain’s airlines are eager to start flying again after almost a year with minimal revenues due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will set out his roadmap for reopening the economy from the latest lockdown on Feb. 22.
Airlines and holiday companies hope he will include guidance on how travel can restart, allowing Britons to start booking summer holidays abroad and paving the way for a much-needed recovery across the sector.
Below is how members of Airlines UK, an industry body representing British Airways, EasyJet and Ryanair, said they believed travel should restart at an online event on Thursday.
FRAMEWORK FOR REOPENING
Airlines want the government to provide a framework for a phased easing of current travel restrictions, so that quarantine and testing requirements are gradually stripped away when certain milestones are reached.
This is how Virgin Atlantic Chief Executive Shai Weiss sees it working: “Countries move up and down through this framework, depending on how well they are controlling the virus and the level of vaccinations both in the UK and in the other country.”
The framework needed to be in place no later than Easter (Apr. 4), Weiss added.
Airlines want quarantine removed altogether.
Under current rules in England, arrivals from all countries are required to self-isolate for 10 days. Those who have been in certain high risk “red-list” countries must pay 1,750 pounds to isolate in a government-approved hotel.
EasyJet Chief Executive Johan Lundgren called quarantine “by far the biggest obstacle” to travel.
“Quarantine should be the first thing to go on the roadmap,” said Jet2 Chief Executive Steve Heapy.
Airlines were open to the idea that governments may require proof of COVID-19 vaccinations to allow travel in the short term, but they said that those who haven’t had the vaccine must not be discriminated against.
“If that’s what it takes to get things moving in the short term, then that’s what we may have to do,” said Jet2’S Heapy on vaccine passports.
Virgin Atlantic’s Weiss said he wanted to see a digital health app used which would track not just vaccine status but also contain a traveller’s latest COVID-19 test result.
“If you do not have a vaccine that should not be a barrier to entry as long as you accept other limitations,” he said, meaning unvaccinated people would need to show proof of a negative COVID-19 test.
STAFF VACCINATION REQUIREMENT
Virgin Atlantic’s Weiss and Jet2’s Heapy said their personal stance was that while they would encourage staff to be vaccinated, they did not think it should be a requirement. (Reporting by Sarah Young; Editing by Bernadette Baum)