On 22 May 2020, the UK Government announced the quarantine measures to be imposed in the UK from 8 June 2020.
On behalf of the global air charter industry, The Air Charter Association is both surprised and disappointed that the UK Government has introduced this new policy after virtually no discussions or consultations with key stakeholders in the most affected part of the aviation industry – the air charter sector.
The resulting blanket quarantine policy reveals a limited understanding of all sectors of the aviation industry, features inconsistencies that discriminate against aviation professionals, and, in the case of the global air charter industry, prevents high-priority travel by decision makers that is vital to the UK’s recovery and future prosperity. This is particularly poignant as we now head towards an inevitable recession and the end of the Brexit transition period.
At a time when other European nations are beginning to relax their travel restrictions, it is disappointing that the Government has disregarded the safe working practices and testing regimes proposed by the Association’s members and other industry bodies which could easily be implemented to allow small numbers of passengers to travel safely across borders.
These new measures serve only to further damage the aviation industry, threatening the future of many airlines, business aircraft operators, airports, handling agents, maintenance and engineering teams, and the wider supporting businesses in the sector.
For charter operators, particularly within the business aviation sector, quarantine stops passengers travelling to the UK for short periods for economically valuable work. At a time when the UK and the EU are defining their future trading agreement following the Brexit transition period, and businesses on both sides of the Channel are desperately trying to respond to the current pandemic, we fail to understand how this blanket quarantine is in the best interests of the UK.
If business leaders, who generate many millions of pounds of investment in the UK economy, and employ many millions of people in the UK, are unable to travel for short periods to the country, we believe this will materially worsen the economic harm for the UK economy and aviation industry and further delay their recovery.
The exemptions list includes broad and populous areas such as BBC workers, Government employees and, most confusingly, UK residents who work abroad part-time, plus a significant number of exemptions for maritime and rail workers. However, the exemptions for aviation are actually limited to pilots and cabin crew which fail to take into account many other, non ‘crew’ roles which are vital for aircraft to continue to fly safely.
It is clear that different departments in the UK Government have alternative views on the effectiveness of quarantine at this stage. At a time when the majority of the EU is beginning to remove the restrictions that they implemented at the start of this crisis, introducing these measures now is simply too little, too late.