Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss has hit out at the government saying “anyone of us could have done better” in alleviating Covid’s impact on travel

Speaking at Abta’s Travel Convention, Weiss said: “One in 10 jobs in the UK depends on travel. It’s short sighted to think this industry can be left to its own devices.

He insisted: “Anyone of us could have done things better and more decisively.

“Without an efficient test, trace and isolate system this country will not recover. Without the removal of quarantine we will not be able to take off as an economy.”

Asked if the government appeared finally to be “working at pace” to develop a Covid-testing regime for travellers as it has said, Weiss responded: “When I say ‘at pace’, I mean rapidly.”

He warned: “There is only a certain amount of time you can survive if borders do not open up.

“We need to open travel markets for Christmas, Easter and summer travel. If action is not forthcoming I fear we will lose Christmas. I fear we will lose Easter.”

Weiss told the Convention a Covid-testing regime for travellers would be “passenger paid, at least initially”. But he argued: “The costs of testing will come down rapidly. People are talking about almost pregnancy-style testing coming soon.”

Virgin Atlantic has axed 5,000 jobs and Weiss conceded: “This is a crisis for which we were really not prepared. We put a premium on saving as many jobs as possible, but we lost one in two people. That is terrible.

“It has been devastating, but we had to take these measures. There were moments we thought we might not survive.”

He argued: “We had to ensure we had a credible story for recapitalisation, based on a very specific business plan.”

At the moment, he said: “We’re flying mainly on routes we take most cargo. We are taking passengers. Our trips to the Caribbean are going quite well. But the US has been closed to non-US residents since March.”

He reported Virgin Atlantic is testing all crew with “a 30-minute test at the airport” and said: “This is the way to go. We’re reviewing all the options for rapid point of care testing.

Weiss insisted: “A vaccine will arrive. Recovery will be slow, but there will be a recovery.”

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