Airline bosses take aim at UK government

Legal challenge to new quarantine measures


On Monday, the CEOS of some of the largest airlines in the British Isles criticised the UK government and the measures it has imposed on air travellers to limit the spread of Covid-19.

The 14-day quarantine of international arrivals proposed by Boris Johnson’s government came into effect at the start of the week. Through this, Downing Street hopes to limit any further coronavirus deaths. The United Kingdom has the second highest Covid-19 death toll in the world, per the official statistics.

The furore has managed to unite the normally competitive airline industry.

Willie Walsh, the CEO of British Airways (IAG), has proposed a legal action seeking injunctive relief with the support of low-cost rivals easyJet (EZJ) and Ryanair (RYA).

Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme on Radio 4, Michael O’Leary, the boss of Ryanair, stated that he would not cancel flights scheduled for July and August “because the flights are full outbound of the UK.” The outspoken airline founder added:  

“British people are ignoring this quarantine. They know it’s rubbish. Ryanair is operating a thousand daily flights to points all over Portugal, Spain, Italy [and] Greece from the 1st of July, the 2nd, the 3rd and every day after that.”

Meanwhile, the CEO of easyJet, Johan Lundgren, told Sky News: We think that there’s enough evidence and there’s a strong case here that this should be challenged by the courts. This is something that has been rushed through. It’s not in proportion.”

Airlines have been amongst the businesses hardest hit by the Covid-19 lockdowns. Since the start of the year, the share prices of easyJet, Ryanair and British Airways (IAG) have fallen by 38, 12 and 46 per cent respectively.

Given such blows and having been forced to cut thousands of jobs, the urgency of airline chiefs is perhaps understandable.

Support for the government’s lockdown strategy was flagged in recent days, with frustration that businesses and pubs have remained shut while technically illegal mass demonstrations have been allowed to go ahead.

With the CEOs legal challenge possibly being heard in court on Friday, the current restrictions are coming under increasing strain.

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