Holidays abroad could be possible from July, according to travel industry bosses. Quash Quarantine, a group of more than 500 companies, says it has received private assurances from senior government sources that travel corridors will be in place from 29 June. The group, which has been campaigning to overturn the 14-day quarantine rule that came into force in the UK on 8 June, is pressing for the assurance to be made public. It is also calling for an amendment to the Foreign Office advice against all but essential travel. It follows
Paul Charles, spokesman for Quash Quarantine, said, “We urge the government to signal to the travel industry publicly and urgently that this is the case … We are still considering our options regarding legal action, including whether to join BA’s claim or launch our own action, but would prefer that 29 June is confirmed as soon as possible for the start of travel corridors. The industry needs urgent visibility on a timetable for travel to begin again.”
In a letter sent to the home secretary on Monday, the Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) has asked the government to “urgently investigate travel corridors to establish transport links with countries identified as having appropriate levels of infection risk.”
ABTA’s chief executive Mark Tanzer said: “We must restart international travel as soon as it is safe to do so, and businesses and customers would benefit from the Government outlining when this is likely to happen.” He added that any change requires “a strategic, cross-departmental approach from the Government,” including the lifting of Foreign Office advice.
Abta has not specified a date for the introduction of travel corridors, but pointed to other European countries including Spain, Greece and Portugal opening their borders to some countries from 1 July.
Noel Josephides, chairman of tour operator Sunvil, which is not one of the 500 companies in the group, also suggested the introduction of travel corridors is imminent. “The pressure on the Government and the threat of legal action from airlines has been immense and the current chaos at airports really does point to a very short life for the quarantine scheme and the swift introduction of air bridges.”
British Airways, Ryanair and easyJet began legal proceedings against the government on Friday. In a letter, they outlined how the quarantine measure is disproportionate and unfair, imposing greater restrictions on arrivals into the UK than on people infected with Covid-19, and applying only to England, not Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. The action follows weeks of warnings from the aviation and travel sectors that the quarantine requirement is unworkable and will lead to thousands more job losses.
Last week, in a survey of 300 owners and chief executives in the UK travel and hospitality sectors, 71% said that if the quarantine measures came into force they expected to make 60% of staff redundant, while 28% said they may go out of business altogether.
The current rules require anyone entering the UK to self-isolate for 14 days. However, there is already confusion over its implementation, which began on Monday – people arriving at Heathrow on Monday said there were no physical health screens and they were not asked to provide proof of where they would be staying for the next 14 days. The National Police Chiefs Council has also urged a hands-off role in checking whether people have breached the requirements.
Health experts have cast doubt on the viability of air corridors, also known as air bridges, pointing out pitfalls, such as if the two countries involved had different rates of infection or if there was a sudden surge in cases in a particular country.
But Charles says he has “100% trust [in] my source” that travel corridors will be introduced by 29 June, the date the government is due to review the quarantine measure. He believes air corridors will be pan-European and may also include some long-haul destinations such as Singapore and Sydney. “It has to be pan-European. You can’t have an air corridor between, say, the UK and Málaga, as there is nothing to stop someone driving from Málaga into France or Germany.”
The Quash Quarantine group says travel companies are ready to start selling holidays from 29 June. “There are 30,000 flights set to depart the UK in July; that’s 5.4 million seats across all airports and carriers.” Charles noted that figure was before Jet2 announced it has delayed starting flights until 15 July, but added that “Villas are ready to sell.”
He believes there will be sufficient demand from British holidaymakers for the industry to make a partial recovery. “It won’t be like summer 2019; the industry will be 30 to 50% smaller, but I think there are enough people who want to go away.”
Josephides of Sunil said flight prices could be low at first to stimulate demand, but bargains on accommodation are less likely. “Owners cannot afford to miss the chance of selling at good margins for a few weeks, having been starved of revenue from April to mid July.”