UK Airline Bosses Call For Financial Aid & Testing Certainty

In the face of new travel restrictions, the chief executive officers of the United Kingdom’s biggest airlines have written to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson asking for financial assistance and a scaled-back testing regime. The airline bosses say further travel uncertainty is set to cause the industry ongoing financial pain.

UK airlines bosses want the UK Government to ease travel restrictions and provide some financial assistance. Photo: British Airways

UK PM accused of a “haphazard and disproportionate” travel strategy

The letter cosigned by airline luminaries such as British Airways’ CEO Sean Doyle, Virgin Atlantic’s CEO Shai Weiss, and Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary says the Prime Minister has disrupted the travel plans of millions by taking a “haphazard and disproportionate” travel strategy. The outcome is, UK-based airlines have only sold about 30% of their available seat inventory this winter.

Also signing the letter were the CEOs of Loganair, Jet2, Tui, easyJet, and airline lobby group Airlines UK. The UK Government has agreed to a meeting between the airline bosses and officials later on Monday. The overnight release of the letter is a pre-emptive shot across the Government’s bows by the UK airline industry.

“We and our customers feel sincerely let down, having believed a more pragmatic, evidence-led approach to travel, in line with the rest of the world, had been achieved and agreed by all concerned just a few months ago,” the letter reads.

An expensive and ever-changing testing regime upsets UK airline bosses

What seems to have upset the airlines is a constantly evolving set of travel and quarantine rules that are causing Britons to stay home. Ideally, the airlines would like the UK Government to scrap all testing for fully vaccinated travelers.

This week, the UK Government is meeting to consider replacing quarantine for travelers from red-list countries with home isolation. But the Government is also expected to stick to existing requirements for a lateral flow test before departure for all passengers irrespective of vaccination status and a PCR swab after arriving back in the UK.

The airline bosses say despite promising to do so, the UK Government has not come down on private operators charging over-the-top fees for mandatory PCR tests. These additional costs are also deterring travelers.

“As leaders of UK airlines, we are deeply concerned about the haphazard and disproportionate approach by government to travel restrictions following the emergence of the Omicron variant,” the letter says.

UK airlines canvas further financial assistance

In addition to scraping “disproportionate” testing regimes, the airline bosses would also like some emergency financial assistance to see them through the winter and an extension on the due dates for previously issued pandemic loans.

Further, if the travel restrictions don’t ease soon, the UK airline industry may also request a furlough scheme similar to assistance given to the US airline industry by the US Government.

“We urgently request you to meet with us, to understand the problems that we and our customers are now facing because of these measures, which the Transport Secretary himself admitted risked killing off the travel industry. We urge you to act now to prevent this from happening,” the letter adds.

The airline bosses say the current testing regimes add little value to keeping the UK safe but are extremely disruptive. The ever-changing rules deter people from traveling, adversely impacting the airline’s bottom line.

The airline CEOs got their wish about a meeting. Whether the UK Government acts on the industry’s concerns after Monday’s meeting is another matter.

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