British Airways may halt plans to restart flights in July due to govt's new 14-day quarantine rule

BRITISH Airways could be forced to delay the return of flights in July due to the new 14-day quarantine rules introduced by the government.

The new restrictions mean that anyone entering the country, either international visitors or Brits returning from holiday, will have to self-quarantine for two weeks.

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In an address to the nation on Sunday, Boris Johnson said it will "soon be the time" to bring in a quarantine period for air passengers to stave off Covid-19 infections from abroad.

Willie Walsh, chief executive of BA's parent company, International Airlines Group, said there was "nothing positive" in the address.

Giving evidence to the Commons Transport Select Committee about the demand for air travel, Mr Walsh said: "The announcements yesterday of a 14-day period (for people) coming into the UK, it's definitely going to make it worse.

"There's nothing positive in anything that I heard the Prime Minister say yesterday.

"We had been planning to resume – on a pretty significant basis – our flying in July.

"I think we'd have to review that based on what the Prime Minister said yesterday."

Mr Walsh told the committee that British Airways' capacity to operate will be "pretty minimal" in the event of an imposed quarantine.

He added: "Despite the fact that there had been some rumours about this quarantine period, I don't think anybody believed that the UK Government would actually implement it if they were serious about getting the economy moving again."

Mr Walsh told the committee that the two-week quarantine for air passengers was a "surprise" as similar quarantines are not in place for other forms of international travel.

He said: "I don't understand that but maybe the Prime Minister will be able to clarify the science behind that. It seems strange to me."

A Government official said quarantine is "a few weeks away from happening yet", adding: "What the scientific advice tells you is that when domestic transmission is high, imported cases represent a small amount of the overall total and make no significant difference to the epidemic.

"However, this can change when the domestic transmission rate of infection is low and people are arriving from countries with a higher rate of infection."

It announced last month that up to 12,000 British Airways workers will be made redundant, which is equivalent to more than a quarter of the workforce.

While giving evidence, Mr Walsh insisted the timing of the announcement about the reduction in staffing at British Airways was due to the UK's labour laws.

He said: "The labour legislation in Ireland and Spain – the two other major countries in which we operate – it's different. We're required to do it in a different way.

"We are embarking on a restructuring and I've made it clear that this is group-wide restructuring. It's not specific to British Airways.

"It's group-wide restructuring in the face of the greatest crisis that the airline industry and the airlines within IAG have faced."

He added: "We are not picking on British Airways.

"We're not doing anything that we don't think is absolutely necessary to secure the survival of British Airways and we're doing exactly the same with the other airlines in the group."

Mr Walsh  added that he did not expect all big airlines to survive the current pandemic. 

Flybe has already folded at the beginning of this year blaming coronavirus and Virgin Atlantic has appealed for a government bailout as a result of the crisis. 

He said: "I wish every airline well in the current environment.

"I hope to see many of them come through this.

"I firmly believe that not all of them will, because many of them were poorly run and quite honestly weren't viable in good times.

"I can't see how they would be viable with the changing environment we're all facing."

Ryanair has already said that it hopes to return to a more normal schedule of flights in July.


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