Britain’s three largest airlines fight UK quarantine with legal action

Amid low bookings, British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair hope to force UK government to show scientific proof backing 14-day rule

FILE PHOTO: British Airways planes are seen parked at Bournemouth Airport, as the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) continues, Bournemouth, Britain, April 1, 2020. REUTERS/Paul Childs/File Photo

British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair have launched legal action against the UK government's quarantine policy in an attempt to overturn what they see as excessively strict rules.

All three airlines had hoped to resume regular flights after air travel came to a near total standstill during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic, leading to about 20,000 job losses between them.

But Britain's 14-day quarantine, introduced on June 8 for arrivals from abroad, is deterring bookings at a time when other European countries are beginning to open their borders.

On Friday the airlines said in a statement, issued by BA's parent company, IAG, that they had lodged their complaint with the High Court in London asking for a judicial review as soon as possible.

If judges agree, lawyers have said the government would have to show the scientific evidence that underpinned the rule.

There was no immediate response from the British government, which has previously defended quarantine as necessary to prevent a second wave of the coronavirus.

Britain's chief scientist said earlier this month that politicians decided the policy, adding quarantines worked best for restricting travel from countries with high infection rates.

The airlines said there was no scientific evidence for the policy and there had been no consultation with the industry on the new rules.

Their legal action escalates tensions with the government, and the relationship is in contrast to France and Germany where political leaders have bailed out the countries’ carriers.

The airlines said they wanted the government to readopt its previous quarantine policy introduced on March 10, which applied only to passengers arriving from countries deemed as high risk.

They also dismissed "air bridges", bilateral deals between countries with low infection rates, which the government has presented as a potential alternative to the quarantine, saying they had not yet seen any evidence of how these would work.