Tighter travel restrictions spell bad news for UK airlines
Chief Executives of carriers such as RyanAir and British Airways have accused the government of implementing ‘haphazard’ and ‘disproportionate’ measures.
Guess how much it’s going to cost me to return from my holiday in Spain to the UK, as a fully vaccinated citizen, in Covid tests alone. 70 quid. Yeah, at around three times the price of the cost of my flight, I’m going to have to agree with the recent open letter signed by multiple UK airline CEOs attacking the new Covid travel restrictions that this government has put into place. Let me get one thing straight, I’m all for more testing. In fact, I’m glad our government has apparently learned from its earlier pandemic mistakes and is cracking down harder and faster on this new, highly infectious variant. What I can’t support, however, is the non-standardised aspect of these day-two tests. Private companies are charging around 50 quid for at home day-two testing, and while this does go down to £15 for an in-clinic test, travelling to a busy Covid clinic just before Christmas kind of defeats the purpose of ‘tougher’ restrictions. Oh, and it gets worse if you’re travelling from a red-listed country. Solo travellers will end up footing a £2,286 bill for an 11-night quarantine in a hotel when they return to England. ‘UK government implements new restrictions, which they make mandatory, then asks regular taxpayers to foot the bill, while also offering no economic support’ – where have I heard that before? Do you remember Boris’ promise to fix the cost of expensive PCR tests for travellers? Yeah, me too.
My gripe is slightly different to that of the angry airlines though. The industry has asked for the scrapping of the further tests themselves when the government formally reviews the measures on December 20th. The letter claims that “Further pre-departure and upon-arrival testing clearly add very little value to our Covid protection, but unnecessarily disrupt Christmas for families as well as businesses while severely damaging the UK travel industry.” With the Christmas period being a massive money-making season for airlines, and even more important this year for those recovering from pandemic losses, I think UK airlines are justified in stating that “We and our customers feel sincerely let down.” Off the back of these new restrictions, the industry has asked for an extension to the economic support offered by the government to help mitigate the inevitable profit losses which will once again plague this country’s airlines. To add insult to injury, these new restrictions actually somewhat go against the official advice from the WHO, who urged governments to steer clear of “blanket bans” to travel – which, of course, the UK’s red-list does anyway. Looks like its going to be another stressful, frugal Christmas then, for myself as well as our country’s aviation industry. I can only hope that this serves to be the final lesson our government has to learn (fat chance) before they actually start handling this pandemic properly.