October 19, 2020 11:42:03 AM
The new boss of British Airways has demanded that the self-isolation requirement for international arrivals is replaced by Covid-19 tests before departure.
Sean Doyle, who was appointed chief executive last week, told the Airlines 2050 summit of industry leaders that “we do not believe quarantine is the solution”.
He said: “We believe the best way to reassure people is to introduce a reliable and affordable test before flying.
“For the UK, this approach reduces the stress on the NHS testing systems within the UK and on policing the quarantine system.
“If we look abroad to our near neighbours, we see that business travel and indeed tourism is being prioritised by some countries.
“We need to get the economy moving again and this just isn’t possible when you’re asking people to quarantine for 14 days.
“It’s our view that even if that quarantine period is reduced to seven days, people won’t travel here and the UK will get left behind.”
Mr Doyle said his “absolute priority is to ensure our resurgence from the worst crisis in the industry’s history”, adding that “the stakes could not be higher”.
He declared that “the risk to public health (from) flying is low”, citing research suggesting there have been “as few as 44 cases of Covid-19 linked to flights” across the world.
“We need ministers to work with us to make the right decisions for citizens and our industry,” he said.
But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps told the conference the Government is developing a “test and release regime” which will still involve a quarantine period of at least a week.
He said: “My ministerial colleagues and I have agreed a regime, based on a single test provided by the private sector and at the cost to the passenger, after a period of self-isolation and doing those things could achieve our objectives.
“The next step is to develop how this approach can be implemented.”
He added: “It will mean a single test for international arrivals, a week after arrival.”
Mr Shapps said he is “extremely hopeful” that a new system will be in place by December 1.
Earlier this month he launched a taskforce to develop methods of reducing the 14-day isolation period for people arriving from non-exempt locations.
There has been criticism over the length of time taken to create the group, and the fact it contains no representatives from the travel industry.
Mr Shapps insisted “we weren’t sitting on our backsides doing nothing about this”, explaining that officials have been “defining quite a lot of the detail behind what is now really an implementation phase”.
In terms of the membership of the taskforce, he said “we are talking to hundreds of different organisations, firms, scientific, academic, all manner of people, to get this going”.
He added that the views of “everybody in the travel industry” are “very much welcome”.