Business

Top airlines take UK government to court over 'devastating' quarantine

Posted June 12, 2020 6:33 a.m. EDT

— British Airways, EasyJet and Ryanair have launched a legal challenge to coronavirus quarantine measures imposed by the UK government, saying the "flawed" guidelines will crush the economy.

The three biggest carriers operating in the United Kingdom said in a statement Friday that the quarantine will have a "devastating effect on British tourism and the wider economy," destroying thousands of jobs. The airlines have asked for a judge to review the case as soon as possible.

The quarantine, which came into effect on Monday, requires all international arrivals not covered by a shortlist of exemptions to self-isolate for two weeks. The government has said that this is to prevent coronavirus cases from being imported and a second wave of infections that could overwhelm the National Health Service.

The airlines said that quarantine should only apply to passengers from "high risk" countries, as was the case earlier in the pandemic. "This would be the most practical and effective solution and enables civil servants to focus on other, more significant, issues arising from the pandemic while bringing the UK in line with much of Europe which is opening its borders mid-June," they said in a statement.

The companies added that they have not yet seen evidence on how and when proposed "air bridges" between the United Kingdom and other countries will be implemented.

Global aviation has been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic, with IAG-owned British Airways, EasyJet and Ryanair announcing nearly 20,000 job cuts between them as they prepare for a world in which people fly less.

The airlines said Friday that there had been no consultation and no scientific evidence provided for the quarantine policy. And they highlighted several inconsistencies in the approach.

"If you are a French or German worker commuting weekly to the UK you will be exempted, and the government is banning people traveling to and from countries with lower infection rates than the UK," they added.

The United Kingdom is heading for the worst coronavirus-induced slump of any major economy, with GDP expected to shrink at least 11.5% this year, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. A potential second wave of coronavirus would send unemployment to nearly 12% in the first quarter of 2021, even if a basic free trade agreement with the European Union is reached, the OECD said Wednesday.

Business is increasingly concerned about the possibility of a no-deal Brexit, which it warned would be catastrophic for the economy. The UK economy contracted by about 20% in April, the first full month of lockdown, the Office for National Statistics said Friday.

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