Airline association Iata has warned UK air transport needs an “urgent rescue plan” in the face of an “imminent unemployment catastrophe”.

Iata said the UK is in the midst of an air transport “crisis” which threatens more than 820,000 jobs across the UK.

It warned the UK would lose its position as the world’s third-biggest aviation market unless the government retreats from policies which have “exacerbated the damage”, highlighting the imposition of quarantine.

Iata called for a testing regime, a review of the infection threshold for quarantine “that is aligned with international partners”, a suspension of Air Passenger Duty and extension of the government furlough scheme for the sector.

Alexandre de Juniac, Iata director general, said: “The stop-start-stop closing of the UK is not a successful survival tactic for Covid-19.

“Without a rescue plan, 820,000 jobs will be vaporised by quarantine and may never come back. A Covid-19 testing will avoid apocalyptic unemployment.”

Iata reported its latest air passenger survey suggests support for testing, with two-thirds of those surveyed in the UK agreeing that people who test negative for Covid should not have to quarantine.

The survey found 62% of respondents felt Covid-19 was sufficiently under control to open up borders.

The association criticised the UK government’s decision-making process on quarantine as “opaque” and noted the frequently-quoted threshold of 20 infections per 100,000 of population “is not aligned with other European states”.

Iata urged the government to adopt a metric “harmonised with other European countries” to give passengers greater predictability to plan journeys.

It also pointed out the need for the devolved administrations to align with UK government policy.

Iata warned: “The economic impact of the collapse in air traffic is estimated to be 733,000 lost jobs and £51.4 billion in GDP across the economy.

“If border restrictions and quarantine continue until the end of the year, an additional 87,000 jobs and £4.6 billion of GDP will be lost.

“Failure to find alternatives to quarantine and the stop-start-stop approach to opening and closing destinations will see these economic impacts increase in 2021.”