This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.
The Air Charter Association (ACA) has strongly criticized new Covid-19 quarantine rules that from June 8 will require almost all travelers arriving in the UK to remain isolated at a fixed location for 14 days. In a statement issued on May 28, the industry group questioned the validity of the quarantine rules and said that they will make it impossible for business people to come to the UK for short visits.
“At a time when other European nations are beginning to relax their travel restrictions, it is disappointing that the [UK] government has disregarded the safe working practices and testing regimes proposed by the association’s members and other industry bodies which could be easily implemented and allow small numbers of passengers to travel safely across borders,” said ACA chairman Kevin Ducksbury.
ACA questioned the logic of introducing a quarantine requirement more than 11 weeks after the UK started its Covid-19 lockdown and when infection rates are declining. However, the government claims that its scientific advisors have supported the quarantine to prevent the threat of a second wave of infections.
The association suggested that various UK government departments hold differing views on the effectiveness of a quarantine and complained that the policy had been unilaterally announced on May 22 with insufficient consultation with industry stakeholders who will be responsible for enforcing the requirements.
“At a time when the majority of the European Union [EU] is beginning to remove the restrictions that they implemented at the start of this crisis, introducing these measures now is simply too little, too late,” said Ducksbury. Both Spain and Ireland currently impose 14-day quarantine requirements, but the Spanish government has announced plans to lift its rule before the end of June.
A spokeswoman for the UK Border Force explained to AIN that all arriving passengers will be required to complete an online form providing contact details and nominating a private address at which they will quarantine for 14 days. Officials will conduct spot checks to ensure that the quarantine is maintained and have the power to impose fines starting at around $120.
Business aircraft operators already must submit a full manifest listing all passengers and crew onboard international flights into the UK. Border Force officials do not routinely meet all arriving aircraft and will compare the names on the manifests with records showing those who have registered for quarantine.
ACA also complained that the UK government has declared only pilots and flight attendants exempt from quarantine, arguing that various other groups of aviation support staff might have legitimate reasons to make short trips to the country. It said that the government has granted other industries wider exemptions.
“For charter operators, particularly within the business aviation sector, quarantine stops passengers traveling to the UK for short periods for economically valuable work,” said Ducksbury. “At a time when the UK and EU are defining their future trading agreement following the Brexit transition period, and business on both sides of the Channel are desperately trying to respond to the current pandemic, we fail to understand how the blanket quarantine is in the best interests of the UK.”