British Airways refuses to meet Home Secretary


Home Secretary Priti Patel insists quarantine will help stop the virus' spread Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Home Secretary Priti Patel insists quarantine will help stop the virus’ spread

The owner of British Airways, IAG, has refused to attend a meeting with Home Secretary Priti Patel on Thursday to discuss the UK’s new quarantine plans.

From 8 June the government will require all travellers to the UK to quarantine for 14 days or face a £1,000 fine.

But BA, which is under huge financial strain due to the pandemic, has called it “another blow to our industry”.

IAG did not give a reason for not attending and has declined to comment further.

However, the operator is understood to be annoyed at what it saw as a lack of consultation over the quarantine’s introduction. One source said the airline feels “it has not been treated professionally; that [the meeting] is a waste of time”.

The BBC has asked the Home Office for comment.

EasyJet and Virgin Atlantic, as well as the owner of Heathrow Airport, were among the aviation businesses that met the Home Secretary and junior aviation minister Kelly Tolhurst.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Airlines across the world have grounded aircraft as passenger numbers collapse

BA has faced heavy criticism in parliament in recent days over a plan to slash jobs while accessing the government’s furlough scheme.

In April, BA said it would cut 12,000 roles and weaken terms and conditions for its remaining staff, just weeks after it had put 30,000 workers on the job retention scheme which pays workers’ wages.

The airline has defended the cuts as necessary, but on Wednesday Ms Tolhurst suggested BA should be held to account for what one MP called a “breach of faith”.

“The [furlough] scheme was not designed for taxpayers to fund the wages of employees only for those companies to put the same staff on notice of redundancy during the furlough period,” Ms Tolhurst said.

‘Tourism blow’

The government insists the new quarantine rules will help contain the spread of coronavirus.

But they have been roundly criticised by the UK’s tourism industry, which has all but ground to a halt due to the pandemic.

The boss of the UK’s biggest airport services company, Swissport, said on Thursday that the plan could deliver a “killer blow” to the tourism sector.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has criticised the plans

Michael O’Leary, chief executive of Ryanair, echoed those concerns, saying the requirement to self-isolate would “significantly reduce European visitors”.

“The safety and security of our people and our customers is always our top priority and public health must come first,” a Virgin Atlantic spokesman said.

“However, the introduction of mandatory 14-day self-isolation for every single traveller entering the UK will reduce customer demand significantly and prevent a resumption of services at scale.”

On Monday, a group of 200 travel companies wrote to Ms Patel asking for the plans to be scrapped.

The letter suggested travel should be possible for people – without quarantine – between destinations “deemed safe from coronavirus”.

So-called air bridges would allow visitors from countries where coronavirus infection rates are low into the UK, without having to self-isolate for two weeks.