Thursday, 24 Sep 2020

UK's biggest airlines sue over quarantine rules

LONDON • The biggest airlines operating in Britain sued the government to overturn a new rule that people arriving in the country self-isolate for two weeks amid the coronavirus pandemic.

British Airways moved with budget carriers Ryanair and EasyJet to try to block the rules, which began on Monday. The rules require arriving travellers to self-quarantine despite criticism from the airline industry that the move will stop customers from booking vacations.

The government’s plan “will have a devastating effect on British tourism and the wider economy and destroy thousands of jobs”, the airlines said yesterday. They have asked for judges to hear the review as soon as possible.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is trying to balance the need for businesses to reopen with the risks of controlling the spread of the coronavirus in the country.

BA and its rivals want the government to roll its plan back to rules in force since March 10, which required only travellers from “high risk” countries to self-isolate. The new rules are tougher on travellers than on people confirmed with Covid-19, the airlines said.

Their challenge says the requirements were not properly discussed and have not been backed up by scientific advice. Frequent fliers from countries such as France and Germany, where infection rates have dropped, are being penalised too.

The Home Office yesterday declined to comment on the lawsuit.

“If it is a question of what the scientists are saying, then it is absolutely the job of the courts to consider this,” said Mr Matthew Smith, a partner at BDB Pitmans and former government lawyer.

The quarantine would torpedo BA’s plans to resume about 40 per cent of its scheduled flights next month and force it to continue burning £20 million (S$35 million) a day, the carrier said. EasyJet plans to resume some flights on Monday, while Ryanair plans to restart flying on July 1.

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