Ryanair, British Airways and easyJet have launched legal action against the British Government’s “flawed” 14-day quarantine policy.
The airlines announced they have asked for a judicial review to be heard “as soon as possible”, claiming the measures introduced this week will have a “devastating effect on British tourism and the wider economy”.
They said they have seen no evidence of when proposed air bridges between the UK and other countries will be implemented.
Instead, they want the Government to re-adopt the policy it introduced on March 10, which saw passengers from countries deemed at high risk of coronavirus infection being ordered to self-isolate on arrival in the UK.
The three airlines said in a joint statement: “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.”
Among the claims made by the airlines in their legal challenge to the quarantine are:
– The guidelines are more stringent than those applied to people confirmed to have Covid-19;
– There was no consultation on scientific evidence provided for “such a severe policy”;
– Foreigners commuting weekly to the UK are exempt.
Most international arrivals into the UK have been required to enter a 14-day quarantine since Monday.
All passengers – bar a handful of exemptions – have to fill out an online locator form giving their contact and travel details, as well as the address of where they will isolate.
People who fail to comply can be fined £1,000 in England, and police are allowed to use “reasonable force” to make sure they follow the rules.
The UK’s Border Force officers are carrying out checks on arrivals and can refuse entry to a non-resident foreign national who refuses to comply with the regulations.
Failure to complete the locator form is punishable by a £100 fixed penalty notice.
In addition to complaints from the travel industry, the scheme has been met with strong criticism from opposition parties and some Conservative MPs.
Downing Street said it “wouldn’t comment on any ongoing legal matters”.
A spokesman for the British Prime Minister said: “I would emphasise that we have obviously brought these quarantine rules into place to protect public health and ensure we don’t import the virus as cases in the community reduce.”
Britain’s Home Secretary Priti Patel has insisted the policy can “help stop a devastating second wave” of coronavirus.