British Airways reportedly shunned an industry round table with ministers to discuss controversial quarantine plans.
Aviation and transport leaders attended the summit with home secretary Priti Patel and aviation minister Kelly Tolhurst the day after the 14-day isolation was confirmed to start on Monday.
But BA, aggrieved at comments made by Tolhurst in Parliament over its 12,000 redundancies and use of the government’s furlough scheme, boycotted the summit with 24 aviation, maritime and rail executives to discuss their concerns over the quarantine and the prospect for ‘travel corridors’ with low risk countries.
The airline’s owner International Airlines Group, did not explain the reason for not attending and declined to further comment, according to the BBC.
EasyJet, Virgin Atlantic and Heathrow were among the aviation businesses that attended the telephone meeting with Patel and Tolhurst.
Sources suggested BA felt it has not been treated professionally and the meeting was a “waste of time”.
More than 500 travel and hospitality companies representing £10 billion of sales endorsed an industry call for Patel to quash the quarantine.
But the home secretary defended the quarantine to bosses, saying it was necessary to prevent a second wave of coronavirus.
She urged them to work together with the government to “make the new public health measures work, to safeguard our recovery and allow us to move forward more quickly.”
George Morgan-Grenville, chief executive of operator Red Savannah, who is leading the campaign, said there was “palpable anger” at the plans which threatened “untold misery” for thousands facing redundancy.
He added: “The home secretary seems completely immune to our needs.
“This is a very, very serious situation and we are none the wiser as to the science behind the rationale for quarantine.”
A survey of more than 120 of the businesses found 71% expected to lay off up to 60% of their staff, while more than a quarter feared they would go bust.
No outcome of the meeting has emerged but Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said in advance that the quarantine represented “a real existential threat” to the aviation industry which was the “lifeblood” of the UK economy, by carrying 40% of the UK’s exports and supply chain.
“These are real jobs we need to protect. If we don’t have a plan from the government on how we are going to reopen the economy those jobs are at risk,” said Holland-Kaye, who has backed air bridges.
“So far we have seen warm words about this but we haven’t seen action. Unless we can see that action that gives us confidence we won’t be able to take the measures that are needed to get the economy moving and save people’s holidays.
“In those kinds of situations, businesses are at risk of their very existence. We are all running out of cash very quickly.
“Unless we can see light at the end of the tunnel, we are going to start making decisions to cut capacity, to cut jobs and that will have a devastating impact on livelihoods.”
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