Coronavirus: Virgin Atlantic delays resuming flights over 14-day quarantine plans

Tom Belger
·Finance and policy reporter
·2-min read
A Virgin Atlantic Boeing 787-9 passenger airplane arrives following a flight from London to Seattle, Monday, March 27, 2017, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle. Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Atlantic and the Virgin Group, was onboard to help launch Virgin Atlantic's new daily service between London Heathrow and Seattle, replacing flights currently operated by Virgin partner Delta Air Lines. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
A Virgin Atlantic flight as the UK government prepares to order international arrivals to quarantine for 14 days, enraging airlines. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

Virgin Atlantic has delayed resuming flights until at least August this year ahead of Friday’s government announcement that it plans to enforce people to self-isolate for two weeks when they touchdown on British soil.

Arrivals, including Brits returning from abroad, are likely to have to self-isolate for 14 days under the proposed new measures, telling authorities where they will stay.

Home secretary Priti Patel will announce fresh details of the plans at the government’s daily coronavirus briefing from Downing Street on Friday. The proposals are reported to include spot checks and £1,000 fines for failure to comply.

Similar measures have already been announced by other countries including the US, Spain and New Zealand to stop the spread of new cases of COVID-19.

READ MORE: Virgin Atlantic announces 3,000 job cuts over COVID-19

But the plans have sparked a fierce backlash from the airline industry, with Virgin Atlantic the latest to sound the alarm on Friday.

Airlines fear the measures will exacerbate passengers’ reluctance to travel even as lockdowns ease, which has already sparked warnings recovery will take years and triggered significant job cuts.

“The safety and security of our people and our customers is always our top priority and public health must come first. However, by introducing a mandatory 14-day self-isolation for every single traveller entering the UK, the Government’s approach will prevent flights from resuming,” said a spokesperson for Virgin Atlantic, founded by tycoon Richard Branson.

“We are continually reviewing our flying programme and with these restrictions, there simply won’t be sufficient demand to resume passenger services before August at the earliest.”

The spokesperson called instead for “carefully targeted public health and screening measures,” allowing a safe restart of air travel for passengers and firms.

READ MORE: EasyJet to resume flights from 15 June

Ryanair’s (RYA.L) outspoken chief executive Michael O’Leary has already called the plans “unenforceable and unpoliceable,” warning they would be widely ignored.

Virgin Atlantic announced earlier this month it would slash 3,000 jobs, predicting recovery would take years and failing to convince the UK government to grant a bailout.

It came after recent announcements by Ryanair and IAG-owned (IAG.L) British Airways of similar drastic cost-cutting measures including thousands of redundancies.

But several airlines have begun setting out plans for a gradual resumption of some flights in recent weeks. EasyJet (EZJ.L) announced on Thursday that it will resume flights from a number of UK airports from 15 June, though almost all are on domestic routes.

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