'Urgent support': UK aviation industry warns of collapse following travel curbs

Suban Abdulla
·3 min read
Plane lands at an airfield at the sunset
Under the new rules, people will also be required to show proof of a negative test taken in the previous 72 hours before travelling. Photo: Getty

Britain’s aviation sector risks collapse without “urgent” government support if it is to survive another long travel curb, industry groups have warned.

Prime minister Boris Johnson announced on Friday that from 4am on Monday, arrivals to the UK from all destinations will be required to quarantine in an effort to reduce the spread of any new variants of COVID-19.

This means that all travel corridors — which were in place to allow arrivals from some nations to forgo quarantine — will be closed.

All arrivals to Britain after that time will need to self isolate for up to ten days. But, the quarantine period can be reduced with a negative test after five days.

Following the announcement, the UK’s travel sector said closing the travel corridors was understandable due to the pandemic, but warned it would deepen the crisis for the industry.

The Airline Operators Association’s chief executive Karen Dee said there was “only so long” airports can run on fumes before “having to close temporarily to preserve their business for the future.”

“The UK and devolved governments now need to set out as a matter of extreme urgency how they will support airports through this deepening crisis,” she said.

The British Airline Pilots' Association (BALPA) echoed that sentiment and called the quarantine rules "yet another huge blow.”

BALPA warned that Britain’s aviation industry would "not be there to support the post-coronavirus recovery" without "a clear plan of action and a proper package of support.”

Head of BALPA Brian Strutton said: “These are dire times and we need a clear plan of action and a proper package of support or the UK aviation industry will not be there to support the post Covid-19 recovery.”

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The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) also called for urgent fiscal support. Matthew Fell, the CBI's chief UK policy director, has urged "targeted fiscal support" for the industry, adding the move would come as a "further blow" to the sector.

Introduced in the summer, travel corridors allowed people to travel to and from some countries with low numbers of coronavirus cases without needing to quarantine on their return.

Tim Aldersdale, chief executive of Airlines UK, said the system had been "a lifeline for the industry" last summer but "things change and there's no doubting this is a serious health emergency.”

Under the new rules, people will also be required to show proof of a negative test taken in the previous 72 hours before travelling.

The new measures will be in place until at least 15 February as ministers deal with a new variant identified in Brazil. The decision to close borders comes nearly a year after the coronavirus was first found in Britain.

The latest figures show a further 1,280 deaths and another 55,761 positive cases.

A ban on travellers from Portugal, Cape Verde and South America also came into force on Friday.

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