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UK travel companies plot 'day of action' as pressure mounts to ease COVID rules

·2-min read
London, UK - May 30, 2016: Aerial view of aeroplanes standing at Terminal 2 of London Heathrow Airport on a cloudy day in May. Airlines using this terminal include Air Canada, Singapore Airlines and United Airlines.
UK pilots are planning a day of action on Wednesday as pressure mounts on the government to open the borders again. Photo: Getty

The UK's airlines and holiday companies are set for a "day of action" on Wednesday 23 June, as pressure mounts on the government to ease travel restrictions ahead of the crucial summer holiday period. 

There has been little movement on the easing of restrictions for travel to and from "red" and "amber" list destinations amid fears of mounting cases of the Delta variant of the coronavirus, first found in India. 

The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) on Sunday morning called on the government to find a way to let international travel to return safely and in a risk managed way by properly. This would include implementing the Global Travel Taskforce’s plan for a transparent traffic-light system, by expanding the Green list in line with the evidence and making restrictions more proportionate, whilst keeping a strong red list to guard against variants.

The group also recommended bringing forward tailored financial support and extending furlough. 

BALPA European airline data for June 2021 shows the UK aviation industry has been the "hardest hit" in Europe by restrictions on international travel. 

The number of flights into and out of the UK has collapsed by three-quarters (73%) compared to 2019. The data shows that Gatwick and Manchester airports are the worse affected in Europe, with Heathrow and Stansted close behind. 

Alongside this, according to world trade body the International Air Transport Association, 860,000 jobs in UK aviation travel and tourism have been lost or are on furlough and are at risk of being lost.

The UK has previously said it has propped up the aviation industry to the tune of £7bn ($9.7bn), however BALPA says most of this is either standard furlough payments or loas which the industry might struggle to repay. 

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“Hapless Ministers give all the appearance of deliberately attacking aviation and tormenting the public with their mixed messages over summer holidays," said Brian Strutton, BALPA acting general secretary.

“If the country is going to build back better from the pandemic and build new international links with partners for trade and travel, we are going to need a thriving aviation industry. There is no time to hide behind task forces and reviews.”

Budget airline Ryanair (RYA.L) and Manchester Airports Group on Thursday launched legal action to try to force rules to be eased before the most profitable season in the calendar year. 

The day of action will involve cabin crew and travel agents gathering in Westminster and airports across the country to try to drum up support. 

Read more: Should I book a holiday in 2021?

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