Coronavirus: BA, EasyJet, and Ryanair launch legal action against UK quarantine

Edmund Heaphy
Finance and news reporter
The airlines have asked for a judicial review of the quarantine measures. (PA)

British Airways, EasyJet (EZJ.L), and Ryanair (RYA.L) said on Friday that they had launched legal action against the UK government’s coronavirus travel quarantine measures, arguing that the rules will have a detrimental impact on the country’s tourism sector.

In a statement, the airlines said that they had asked for a judicial review of the measures, which require passengers arriving in the UK to self-isolate for 14 days.

Though the quarantine excludes travellers from the Common Travel Area, which includes Ireland, the Isle of Man, and the Channel Islands, the airlines said it “will have a devastating effect on British tourism and the wider economy and destroy thousands of jobs.”

The measures came into effect on 8 June. Arguing that the UK was now past the peak of coronavirus cases, home secretary Priti Patel said that the country was “now more vulnerable to infections being brought in from abroad.”

READ MORE: Germany’s Lufthansa to axe 26,000 jobs

But the travel industry has argued that the quarantine period could be a “killer blow” during a period in which airlines are already confronting an unprecedented crisis in coronavirus.

The airlines said on Friday that there was no scientific evidence for the measures. They also rejected the idea that the UK could implement “air bridges,” referring to the suggestion that the government could sign travel deals with countries with low infection rates.

“The airlines have not yet seen any evidence on how and when proposed ‘air bridges’ between the UK and other countries will be implemented,” they said.

Ryanair (RYA.L) chief executive Michael O’Leary previously said the measures will “significantly reduce European visitors” to the UK.

Willie Walsh, the chief executive of British Airways owner IAG (IAG.L), said that the quarantine was “irrational” and “disproportionate.”

But British Airways faced criticism for not attending last week’s government roundtable meeting about the quarantine measures.

READ MORE: Airlines facing ‘worst year in history’ due to coronavirus crisis

Analysts have warned that airlines may collapse under the weight of the collapse in demand from travellers.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said in its financial outlook report earlier this week that the global airline industry would lose $84bn (£66bn) this year. Revenue is expected to slump by 50% to $419bn.

“Financially, 2020 will go down as the worst year in the history of aviation,” Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s director general said.

A separate report from think tank the New Economic Forum warned that as many as 70,000 jobs linked to the aviation industry were at “immediate” risk due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The report compared the expected collapse in aviation employment to the rapid decline of the UK coal industry in the early 1980s, which left lasting economic scars on many communities.