Wednesday 23 June 2021 5:00 am

Business Travel Association and Easyjet: Boris Johnson must deliver a plan to safely reopen travel now or decimate the industry

Clive Wratten is the CEO of Business Travel Association (BTA) and Ali Gayward is the UK Country Manager of EasyJet

Today, all corners of the travel industry are coming together for an unprecedented day of action. 

We have all campaigned in our different ways to get the voice of this once great industry heard. We have sat around (virtual) tables with numerous Government ministers and advisors. Written detailed submissions to endless Taskforces. Offered our expertise and collaboration where it was asked for and where it was not. And at the last traffic light review it seemed to be to no avail. 

Our industry makes a vital contribution to UK plc and is critical to the UK’s standing in the world and is being sacrificed, whilst other industries are offered vital lifelines.

Today travel remains at a standstill with no obvious route to recovery. 

We are joining together in action to demand the Government delivers the safe and sustainable reopening of international travel that was promised, alongside targeted support to get the industry back on its feet whilst also supporting the recovery of the UK economy. 

We desperately need clarity for the industry, businesses and consumers to plan. The science shows how it is safe to reopen overseas travel once again thanks to the success of the vaccination programme.

Across the entire supply chain, we are coming together to give our people a voice to represent both the industry and those customers and UK businesses we serve. To show the Government what is at risk without immediate action; in London, Manchester, Glasgow, Belfast, Edinburgh and online. 

Easyjet is known for connecting friends and family, businesses and holiday makers across Europe. Businesses choose to fly with us because of the great value and flexible fares we offer, from convenient airports across Europe. EasyJet and business travel are intrinsically linked.

The Business Travel Association has revealed that in the second week of June, UK GDP lost £3.18 billion due to the decline of business travel from 2019 pre-pandemic levels.

With European governments progressively opening up using frameworks in place which enable travel (and much of it restriction free) positive booking momentum is underway. The majority of Easyjet’s bookings show a strong swing towards Europe, as people and businesses begin to reconnect, when in normal times it would be a 50/50 split with the UK. 

Easyjet is fortunate that we can redirect flying on our European network, but this is clearly impacting those in the UK who need to return to doing business across Europe and are being put at a disadvantage to their European counterparts. It is these businesses – along with those who need to be reunited with loved ones or take a well-deserved break – who we are standing up for today. 

The sector is founded on interwoven relationships that all aim to bring the very best in pricing, servicing, and safety to UK travellers – be that for business or leisure.

The Government needs to take notice of our industry if there is to be one left standing at the end of this pandemic.

These are not empty words, we have seen airlines, travel management companies and travel agents fail. The Business Travel Association has seen that travel management companies have lost over 50 per cent of their workforce, while some 80 per cent of people who remain are on furlough. 

It is time to provide sector specific support as the government has recognised for others, such as hospitality, where decisions have directly affected their ability to trade.  The same principle needs to be applied to the travel and aviation industry. 

We in the travel industry want to play our part in bringing the UK economy and society back to life. We’ll do this by enabling businesses to trade, make new contacts and everyone to go on holiday, but, today, it is an unequal playing field and that must be corrected or risk UK businesses and consumers being the biggest losers.

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