UK aviation ‘almost closed’ as tough new rules begin

As the toughest ever peacetime rules for travellers to the UK become law, a leading aviation figure has said that the industry is “in effect, almost closed”.

Under current lockdown rules, leisure travel and non-essential trips are outlawed for UK residents until further notice.

Karen Dee, chief executive of the Airport Operators’ Association, told the BBC Today programme: “We’ve had the worst year in the entire history of our industry so the sooner we can get flying again, better and safer, the better.

“With the infection rates as they are, we understand that there is a public-health imperative and so we support that.

“The key challenge for us is finding a clear pathway out so we can begin to open up our industry.

“We believe that vaccinations and a testing framework of some kind is  going to be key to giving people the confidence that they need to travel again.

“The real barrier for us is the quarantine period. We’re keen to work with government to see what is the testing regime that we can put in place.

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“How can we give people confidence that we won’t be importing infections?”

The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said on Friday that during December just one in 1,000 of the coronavirus infections in England was imported.

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Johan Lundgren, chief executive of easyJet, told Today: “It’s really important that the government also has a plan to unwind these restrictions.”

As Britain’s biggest budget airline has cut almost all of its international departures during the UK’s third lockdown, Mr Lundgren said that testing and quarantine was not having “a significant impact on the schedule that we are flying”.

But Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultants The PC Agency, said: “These measures may not having a huge direct impact as so few people are flying, but they are having a massive impact on consumer confidence to book.”

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