UK airline bosses make new call for end to Covid travel restrictions

Chief executives say travel restrictions have 'limited effect' in preventing spread of coronavirus

A plane comes in to land on the southern runway at London Heathrow Airport. PA
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The chief executives of the UK’s largest airlines have written to the government to demand an end to coronavirus-related travel restrictions.

They ask that restriction-free travel is restored “at the very least” for those who are fully vaccinated.

The chiefs say the Omicron variant of the coronavirus is in retreat and evidence shows that travel restrictions have a “limited effect” in preventing the spread of Covid-19.

The UK government was due to review travel requirements for England next week.

The letter is signed by the heads of Ryanair, easyjet, Loganair, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Jet2, as well as the chief executives of holiday travel group Tui and trade body Airlines UK.

It demands restriction-free travel for all or at the very least those who are fully vaccinated, and the targeted and transparent use of red lists without universal testing or hotel quarantines.

It also called on the government to rule out the use of border closures and flight bans in response to future coronavirus variants of concern.

The chief executives say that travel restrictions have had a devastating effect on the UK’s economy, with only marginal health benefits.

“This has meant fewer business trips and less investment in our economy, fewer chances for holidays and to reunite with friends and family abroad, and fewer international visitors," the airline bosses write.

“VisitBritain estimate nearly £50 billion ($67.77bn) in tourism spend from overseas has been lost since the pandemic began – all resulting in less tax revenue to fund public services including the NHS.

“The recovery of the UK’s aviation industry is vital, not just to the more than half a million people working in it, but to everyone who lives and works in the UK.”

A government representative said: “We continue to keep our travel measures under review and no decisions have been made.

“We recognise the impact travel measures have had on the travel and tourism industry and that’s why businesses have been able to draw from an unprecedented package of government support since the start of the pandemic, including around £8bn for the air transport sector.”

Currently, vaccinated people travelling to England must book a coronavirus test to be taken on day two after they arrive. They do not need to enter quarantine once they are in England.

If travellers are not fully vaccinated they must take a test up to 48 hours before their journey, and they must book two tests to be taken on days two and eight after they arrive.

When they arrive in England they must enter quarantine for 10 days.

Updated: January 24, 2022, 12:01 AM