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Published on Monday, June 8, 2020

Legal action mounts against quarantine








Rival airlines, British Airways, Ryanair, and easyJet, have joined together to send a legal letter to the Government to voice their protest against the quarantine plans which come into force today.

The 'pre-action protocol' letter is the first stage required when taking legal action against the Government.

It a joint statement, the airlines said: "These measures are disproportionate and unfair on British citizens as well as international visitors arriving in the UK.

"We challenge the UK Government on a number of defective measures, including (i) the fact the this quarantine is more stringent than the guidelines applied to people who actually have COVID-19, (ii) that if you live in Scotland to date the rules won't apply, (iii) that, for example, if you are a French or German worker commuting weekly to the UK you will be exempted, and (iv) that the UK Government is banning people from countries with lower R rates than the UK.

"We urge the UK Govt to remove this ineffective visitor quarantine which will have a devastating effect on UK's tourism industry and will destroy (even more) thousands of jobs in this unprecedented crisis".

On Friday, Willie Walsh, the chief executive of BA's parent IAG, said the quarantine is irrational and disproportionate and has 'torpedoed' any opportunity for BA to get flying again in July.

Meanwhile, a fast-growing group of travel companies and hotel groups called Quash Quarantine is also considering a judicial review.

Headed by Red Savannah chief executive George Morgan-Grenville, the 500-strong group also includes Kuoni, Abercrombie & Kent, Club Med UK, and Mark Warner.

Morgan-Grenville said the group was closely watching the legal move by BA, Ryanair and easyJet and could either join their legal action or mount its own.

He said barristers had advised that if the airlines went ahead with a legal challenge, the Quash Quarantine group could apply to become a co-claimant, an interested party or an intervener, but he stressed that it hadn't yet exploited any of these actions. This would need the permission of IAG and the Secretary of State for Health.

The other option would be for the group to mount its own case, but this woud involve an 'eye-watering amount of money', he added.

"The quarantine is completely unworkable, economically devastating and unecessary," he said.

The quarantine is due to be reviewed every three weeks and the Government has already said it is looking at putting quarantine-free 'air bridges' or 'travel corridors' in place between the UK and countries with low Covid-19 rates.

The FCO has meanwhile tweaked the wording of its travel advice, saying the blanket ban is 'being kept under constant review', indicating that a change is imminent.

It is believed changes could be in place ready for quarantine-free travel to Europe in July, but without any formal notification now that would be too late for many companies to take advantage.

"Some people will have business models that could capitalise on July, but others will require planning time, for example those who have to charter airline or bulk buy seats," said Morgan-Grenville.

Advantage Travel Partnership and the SPAA wrote to Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary last week saying they were 'heartened' by the promise of air bridges but said it was critical they were put into place sooner rather than later.

They identified a wishlist of 10 countries they want the Government to prioritise when air bridges are put into place. These were Spain, Greece, Turkey, Italy, Cyprus, Portugal, France, Iceland, Egypt and Malta.

ABTA chief executive Mark Tanzer today called for travel corridors to be urgently investigated and for a clear plan for the restart of international travel.


 

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