Legal action against the government’s 14-day quarantine on international arrivals from today now appears inevitable as a powerful travel industry collective joined airlines in opposing the restrictions.
More than 500 travel and hospitality businesses have created the Quash Quarantine movement, with options including backing a judicial review or seeking an injunction.
British Airways’ owner IAG is mounting a legal challenge with the support of Ryanair and easyJet, accusing the government of “unfair” exemptions for some travellers and “disproportionate” restrictions on visitors.
George Morgan-Grenville, chief executive of tour operator Red Savannah and leader of the Quash Quarantine group, said: “There are more holes than in a sieve in this unworkable, poorly-thought through and economically damaging government policy.
“The government has rushed through these measures, with no scientific evidence supported by its SAGE advisory group and no consultation with the travel companies that matter.
“We are taking soundings and discussing our next move. We are watching the BA legal action with keen interest.”
The Quash Quarantine lobby argues that the quarantine, due to be reviewed in three weeks, is driven by politics rather than science.
Paul Charles, a member of the Quash Quarantine group, claimed that the travel and hospitality sector has become a “political football” in the government’s Brexit negotiations.
Writing for Travel Weekly on Monday, he said: “Relations between the sector and a Westminster government are at rock bottom.
“There is deep mistrust of ministers who are hardly going out of their way to offer visibility as to when we can book a holiday bagain.”
The group, which accounts for sales of more than £10 billion, found in a survey of its members that 71% of owners and chief executives expected to make 60% of their staff redundant if quarantine is not stopped.
The business leaders believe that could equate to the loss of some 400,000 jobs across the travel and hospitality industry, with many more in sectors that will suffer a knock-on effect.
More than a quarter of the company leaders – 28% – fear they might have to cease trading altogether if quarantine plans continue.
FCO indefinite advice
They also want the Foreign Office ban on all but essential overseas travel to be lifted to allow travel to resume.
The Unite union, which represents 68,000 aviation workers, believes government has a “moral duty” to provide financial support to the sector following introduction of quarantine requirements.
Unite and the vast majority of the airline industry has concerns over the absence of published medical evidence for quarantining, especially regarding countries where the infection rate of Covid-19 is far lower than in the UK.
Instead, ministers should be introducing measures to restore confidence in the industry and encourage people to begin flying again.
Unite national officer Oliver Richardson said: “Covid-19 is the greatest challenge the aviation sector has ever faced and the government’s introduction of quarantine further adds to it.
“This only reinforces the fact that the government has a moral duty to support the aviation industry during this time of crisis, as it has promised to do on numerous occasions.
“While we are not questioning medically based measures, Unite is supportive of positive measures such as air bridges and effective track and tracing all of which help to generate confidence and will boost a return to flying.
“The aviation sector is crying out for an integrated plan a financial support programme to get it back on its feet and is looking to the government for that leadership.”
Which? Travel editor Rory Boland said: “Over the past few weeks, the government has caused endless confusion among travellers over whether holidays can go ahead.
“Even today, as it ushers in 14-day quarantine for UK arrivals, many consumers are confused as to whether the holiday they already have booked will take place due to the lack of consistent communication from the government.
“Meanwhile, the absence of a definitive date from the FCO on when its travel ban will remain in force until continues to allow travel firms to sell holidays departing in the next few weeks that almost certainly can’t go ahead.
“Not only will those customers not get a holiday, but they may not get their money back either – as some travel firms continue to delay and deny refunds.”
Government sources told the BBC that the UK hopes to secure ‘air bridge’ agreements with certain countries, such as Portugal, Spain and France, as well as Australia and Singapore.
But the government’s position is that the idea is only “under consideration”.
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