Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 25 January 2021.
Is International Travel A Write Off Until 2022?
Twelve months into the COVID-19 pandemic, and after a number of false promises, the UK government appears to have learned the art of expectations management.
Ministers are refusing to commit to a date for the lifting of lockdown measures. A number have made it clear that the public should not plan for a summer holiday abroad this year.
According news reports, the Cabinet is likely this week to back plans to require all inbound passengers in the UK to quarantine at designated hotels. It has not yet been decided whether this will apply to all inbound passengers regardless of citizenship, and whether it will apply only to those arriving from countries designated as high risk.
The final decision is said to rest with Prime Minister Boris Johnson. According to Financial Times journalist Sebastian Payne on BBC Radio 4’s The Westminster Hour last night, he is minded to go for a blanket quarantine measure.
Those who have campaigned against mandatory quarantine point to the fact there is more to international travel than Instagram Influencers heading to Dubai. The effective closure of international borders will carry signifiant economic and social costs. As is the case with citizens of countries that have closed borders, many thousands of UK citizens will be left stranded overseas.
That said, there is widespread support amongst scientists for increased travel restrictions which, as painful as they are, are necessary to prevent the importation of new variants of COVID-19.
There are many unanswered questions, particularly whether there is the hotel capacity to handle all incoming passengers and how these properties can be made COVID-19 secure and do not themselves become hotspots for the virus.
Elsewhere border restrictions are increasing. A number of EU Member States are restricting travel from within the EU. Israel is to ban scheduled passenger flights from 22:00 GMT today. Australia’s Chief Medical Officer Professor Paul Kelly has said that international travel restrictions will be one of the last changes after its vaccination programme. (ABC News)
According to Reuters, the US will also reimpose a travel ban on citizens from the UK, EU and Brazil.
Credit Where Credit Is Due
Airlines have come in for a lot of criticism for the handling of refunds due to COVID-19.
To give BA credit, a request for a refund of a cancelled long-haul flights was made last week via its online form and the refund was processed and paid within five days.
Also of note this week:
Virgin Atlantic, like BA, is operating a large number of cargo only flights. For some destinations as crews cannot enter the country, inbound flights are operated by crews who rest on the aircraft during the outbound flight. This can result in a duty time of up to 30 hours. (Virgin Atlantic)
Qantas has outsourced 2,000 ground handling jobs in Australia to a number of suppliers including dnata and Swissport. This is subject to a legal challenge from the Transport Workers Union. (Sydney Morning Herald)
How BA plans its inflight entertainment. (The Club)
Late post publication updates:
[Reserved for updates throughout the day]
Cathay Pacific carried 39,989 passengers in December 2020. A decrease of 98.7% from the year before. On 28 December 2020, it carried just 490 passengers. Whilst the airline has resumed one-way passenger flights from Hong Kong to the UK, new measures that require Hong Kong based pilots and cabin crew to quarantine for 14 days will result in yet further capacity reductions across its network.
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