The new British Airways boss has called on the government to introduce pre-departure testing warning the UK risks being left behind in the economic recovery.
Sean Doyle, who became chief executive of the airline last week, said the UK needed to get the economy going again but “this just isn’t possible when you’re asking people to quarantine for 14 days.”
“It’s our view that even if that quarantine period is reduced to say seven days, people will travel here and the UK will get left behind,” Doyle said in a keynote address at the Airlines 2050 conference.
He noted that air connectivity between the UK and the US in particular is “fundamental for supporting growth and trade on both sides of the Atlantic.”
Before the pandemic British Airways flew to almost 30 destinations in the US, now it is less than half.
The new BA boss today joined other figures in the travel industry who have called on the government for more support with the introduction of airport testing.
The aviation industry has called on the government to move away from the quarantine regime which it claims has driven down demand for holidays.
“We believe the best way to reassure people is to introduce a reliable and affordable test before flying,” Doyle said.
Doyle pointed to figures from the global aviation industry body IATA which show that since the start of 2020 there have been 44 cases of coronavirus linked to flights. Over the same period some 1.2bn people travelled.
“We need to work together on a testing pilot, so flights can start between London and New York, traditionally one of the busiest airline routes in the world… We need an agreement between the US and UK governments to reopen without blanket quarantine measures.”
Doyle slammed the government for not offering any support or action despite the industry offering its expertise.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps told the aviation conference that the government is developing a “test and release” system for international arrivals based on a single test provided by the private sector and at a cost to the passenger.
“The next step is to develop how this approach can be implemented. It will mean a single test for international arrivals, a week after arrival”, he added.