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New travel rules are ‘disproportionate’, say UK airlines

By Luke O'Reilly, PA

The UK’s largest airlines and travel companies have expressed their concerns about “haphazard and disproportionate” travel restrictions imposed by the Government.

Tougher rules introduced due to the Omicron coronavirus variant mean everyone entering the UK must have evidence of a negative pre-departure test, and self-isolate until they receive a negative result from a post-arrival test.

People arriving in the UK from the 11 African countries currently on the red list must spend 11 nights in a quarantine hotel at a cost of £2,285 for solo travellers.

In a letter to Boris Johnson, the chief executives of seven companies – including Ryanair and British Airways – accused the Prime Minister of breaking his promises to fix the expensive cost of PCR tests for travellers.

“As leaders of UK airlines, we are deeply concerned about the haphazard and disproportionate approach by government to travel restrictions following the emergence of the omicron variant”, they said.

They added that the timing of the restrictions, so close to Christmas, has “undermined customer sentiment”.

“We and our customers feel sincerely let down, having believed a more pragmatic, evidence-led approach to travel, in line with the rest of the world, had been achieved and agreed by all concerned just a few months ago,” they wrote.

“Instead, the layering of additional travel restrictions, introduced at short notice without consultation or discernible strategy, have disrupted Christmas plans and (undermined) customer sentiment just before the crucial Christmas and New Year booking season – up to 30% of tickets are sold.”

The letter demanded that “all emergency testing for fully vaccinated passengers should be removed at the formal review on 20 December” and a “package of bespoke economic support measures should be provided immediately to bridge the sector through this crisis”.

The letter, which also came from the bosses of Tui UK, easyJet, Loganair, Virgin Atlantic, Jet2 and trade group Airlines UK, added: “We urgently request you meet with us, to understand the problems that we and our customers are now facing because of these measures, which the Transport Secretary himself admitted risked ‘killing off’ the travel industry. We urge you to act now to prevent this from happening.”

It comes as ministers are set to consider whether to replace hotel quarantine with self-isolation at home for fully vaccinated travellers.

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