Welcome to London Air Travel’s Monday Briefing for the week beginning 15 February 2021.
Mandatory Hotel Quarantine Comes Into Force
12 months and many missteps into the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK government likes to think it has learned the art of expectations management.
That didn’t stop it briefing compliant Westminster lobby journalists last week its plans for lifting lockdown measures. Schools in England are expected to reopen in early March when rules on socialising outdoors will also be relaxed. Pubs and restaurants may be able to serve outdoors from the end of March. Some outdoor sports will be allowed in April.
Whilst this is officially described as speculation it has not stopped further enthusiastic claims on many of today’s newspaper front pages.
One relaxation was conspicuous in its absence: international travel restrictions. Yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph featured a letter from BA CEO to Sean Doyle to Prime Minister Boris Johnson calling for an end to the “mixed messaging” and an end to the uncertainty over travel restrictions:
“Caution right now is correct. But with the success of your vaccination programme, the steady reduction in serious cases and good news around the effectiveness of the vaccines on variants, we should be confident to prepare for summer travel.”
“We know that so many people are longing to travel from the sheer fact that bookings jump every time restrictions have been lifted.”
“We urgently need the Government to create agreements with other countries, as we’ve seen Israel and Greece do this week, so that UK citizens can travel.”
“With our experience of operating around the world and the UK’s national technology capability, we should be leading the way and setting the international standards.”
“As you lead the country out of the crisis, so many different sectors of our economy that rely on aviation will also be looking for an indication that they can fly again.”
“If you cannot include aviation in your roadmap, then the industry urgently needs your commitment to a package of support which extends past April, to ensure it is able to survive this most difficult period.”
A projected date for the lifting of international travel restrictions would at least allow airlines to target marketing activity and generate cash flow from forward bookings. In all likelihood, this has fallen on deaf ears. The chances of restrictions being lifted before the autumn is very remote.
Those scientists who advocate a “zero COVID” approach to handling the pandemic argue that international travel restrictions are a price worth paying for reopening all of the domestic economy with adequate test and trace measures in place.
The mandatory hotel quarantine for passengers arriving from “red list” countries was introduced at 04:00 this morning. One of the hotels is the Novotel Heathrow which, according to its website booking engine, is closed for public bookings until April 2021.
According to reports on Channel 4 News and in today’s Telegraph Heathrow airport still has concerns that the UK is not sufficiently prepared, specifically when it comes to adequate border staffing and securely transporting passengers to designated hotels.
Also of note this week:
Aeroports de Paris has been ordered by the French government to abandon plans for a fourth terminal at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport. The group is to explore alternative options to become “leaders in green aviation”. (Reuters)
The Canadian government has approved Air Canada’s purchase of Air Transat, subject to certain conditions. This was in spite of competition concerns and in part due to Air Transat’s precarious financial position. It has prompted a complaint from WestJet which had demanded, inter alia, slots at London Heathrow for Canadian airlines. (CBC News)
British Airways interviews Tom Kerridge on designing a menu for 35,000 feet. (The Club)
A Q&A with Emirates’ country manager for Ireland Enda Corneille. “You can’t put that toothpaste [travel] back in the tube. That genie is out. People have a taste for it and I don’t know that we’re ever going to go back to no travel.” (Independent Ireland)
UK providers of wet leased aircraft such as Loganair and Titan Airways are protesting that they are now at a relative disadvantage to their EU rivals due to the Brexit agreement negotiated by the UK government. (The Guardian)
Late post publication updates:
[Reserved for updates throughout the day]
Virgin Atlantic has added Air Malta as an interline partner.
British Airways has applied a further six month extension to the expiry of unused Companion and Gold Upgrade vouchers. (BA)
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