Britain’s three biggest airlines have filed papers in the high court to seek an urgent judicial review of the government’s quarantine laws, which they say are having a devastating effect on tourism and the wider economy.
British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair say the rules, which came into effect on Monday and require passengers arriving from abroad to self-isolate at a single address for 14 days, are flawed and will cost thousands of jobs.
The airlines sent a letter to the government last week to start their legal challenge, and court proceedings are now in train. The airlines have requested a hearing as soon as possible.
Despite reports of private briefings that “air bridges” allowing travel between the UK and some other European countries could be established by the end of the month, the three airlines say they have not yet seen any evidence of how and when they would be implemented.
Instead, they are urging the government to revisit a policy briefly introduced in March that targeted passengers entering from “high-risk” countries for quarantine.
They said: “This would be the most practical and effective solution and enables civil servants to focus on other, more significant issues arising from the pandemic while bringing the UK in line with much of Europe which is opening its borders mid-June.”
The airlines’ chief executives have been outspoken in their criticism of the rules. Willie Walsh, the boss of BA’s parent company IAG, has described them as “irrational and disproportionate”, while Ryanair’s Michael O’Leary has said they are “nonsense”.
In the legal filing, the airlines argue that the rules are more stringent than those applied to people who have Covid-19 and leave their home, that there was no consultation on the policy and no scientific evidence provided to support it, that exemptions for commuters undermine the policy, and that the government is seeking to ban travel to and from countries with lower infection rates than the UK.
The home secretary, Priti Patel, has said the rules are guided by the science and necessary to help prevent a potential second wave of coronavirus.
Most UK passenger flights have been grounded since the end of March, and the carriers say the quarantine rules jeopardise their plans to start increasing holiday flights next month. The government has said the rules will be reviewed on 29 June.
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