Quarantine hotels would be 'catastrophic' for aviation industry, Heathrow warns

25 January 2021, 19:30

Passengers walk with luggage through the Arrival Hall of Terminal 5 at London's Heathrow Airport
Passengers walk with luggage through the Arrival Hall of Terminal 5 at London's Heathrow Airport. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Requiring all international arrivals to enter quarantine hotels would have "huge ramifications" for the aviation sector, Heathrow airport has warned.

Ministers are considering the measure in a bid to combat the spread of coronavirus variants, such as strains discovered in Brazil and South Africa.

Boris Johnson will chair a meeting of the Government's Covid-O committee on Tuesday to decide on stricter rules for arriving travellers.

Read more: Quarantine hotels to be given the go-ahead by Boris Johnson for all UK arrivals

A Heathrow spokesman said: "We support measures that will bring the Covid-19 crisis to an end once and for all.

"However, we must be clear that a blanket hotel quarantine is effectively the closure of our borders which carries huge ramifications for Britain and its aviation sector, already on its knees."

Former UK Border Force chief Tony Smith on new potential measures

The airport also urged Chancellor Rishi Sunak to "finally deliver on his promise of a comprehensive financial support package for UK aviation".

He went on: "It is completely unacceptable that an industry worst hit has watched on as others, fortunate to experience a boom in profits and no restrictions, have been afforded unnecessary financial support as we remain ignored."

Airport and airline trade bodies issued a joint statement insisting that the UK already has "some of the highest levels of restrictions in the world", claiming that introducing tougher rules would be "catastrophic".

Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators Association, and Tim Alderslade, who leads Airlines UK, said: "We have fully supported the Government to do what is right in the face of this pandemic, but policy should be based on evidence and there must be a roadmap out of these restrictions as soon as it is safe.

"The impact of further measures would be catastrophic.

"They will impact vital freight and PPE (personal protective equipment) supplies and jeopardise tens of thousands of jobs and the many businesses that depend on aviation.

Quarantine hotels are under 'active consideration' by Government

"The Government cannot achieve its global Britain aspirations without airlines and airports."

Aviation consultant John Strickland said that a blanket policy in relation to quarantine hotels would "add to the whole challenge about confidence and certainty".

He said: "Nobody is going to book a trip somewhere if they think they're going to have a two-week hotel bill when they come back.

"And airlines are certainly not in a position to pay for it."

He expressed his dismay at the Government's refusal to take a "co-ordinated approach" with the aviation industry.

"They're doing things seemingly without much or any consultation - that are immensely damaging," he added.

President Joe Biden was on Monday formally reinstating a ban on non-citizens travelling to the US from the UK, Ireland and the EU over concerns of new highly infectious coronavirus variants.

He was reversing an order from his predecessor, Donald Trump, in his final days in the White House, that called for an end to the restrictions from Tuesday.

But Mr Biden's press secretary, Jen Psaki, said: "With the pandemic worsening and more contagious variants spreading, this isn't the time to be lifting restrictions on international travel."

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