* High Court challenge coincides with policy change
* Airlines welcome end of “irrational” rules
* Government argued policy needed to help avoid second wave (Adds airlines’ comments, publication of policy detail)
LONDON, July 3 (Reuters) - Three of Europe’s biggest airlines said on Friday they would end a legal challenge against the British government after it scrapped its quarantine rule for travellers coming from some of the most popular tourist destinations.
The government said the policy would be ended for English holidaymakers to countries such as France, Spain and Italy, although it would be maintained for the United States.
The policy announcement coincided with a planned court hearing for a legal challenge to the measures by British Airways , easyJet and Ryanair.
The airlines heavily criticised the government’s introduction of a blanket rule that all travellers arriving from abroad must self-isolate for 14 days on June 8, saying it jeopardised the industry’s recovery from the crisis.
However, they agreed to end the legal challenge after the government said it would publish a list of countries to which the rules would not apply.
“The blanket quarantine introduced by the UK Government on everyone entering into England was irrational and has seriously damaged the economy and the travel industry,” the airlines said in a statement.
“Today’s publication of a list of countries is a first step. We look forward to the publication of the rationale behind the decision-making and the continued lifting of the quarantine from safe countries.”
Tom Hickman, representing the airlines, had earlier argued that the restrictions on travellers were stricter than those imposed at the height of the coronavirus lockdown, and that the rate of infection in different countries should be taken into account.
The government said the policy was a crucial step to avoid a second wave of COVID-19, and their lawyers said that the measures had been justified and proportionate. (Editing by Michael Holden and Stephen Addison)