British Airways, easyJet, TUI, and Ryanair have taken the British government to task over a decision to reimpose a 14-day quarantine against all passengers returning from Spain – shortly after overturning that requirement earlier this month.
The move comes after the Spanish cities of Barcelona, Zaragoza and Madrid all recorded a surge in new infections over the past week, with the national Health Ministry reporting over 900 new cases across the country on Friday.
British newspaper The Times reported that the move will impact 600,000 British holidaymakers already in Spain at the time of the decision – as well as hundreds of thousands more set to travel in the weeks to come.
However, with much of the surge limited to the north-east region of Catalonia, airline executives have insisted that the government’s decision lacks nuance.
“They should have, in my view, controlled arrivals back in from maybe Catalonia or do it on a regional basis,” said Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary, adding that the outbreak is “regional rather than nationwide”.
Other critics of the decision have argued it imposes undue burden on travellers and the sector itself, with British Airways (BA) stating it “throws thousands of Britons’ travel plans into chaos”.
“This is sadly yet another blow for British holidaymakers and cannot fail to have an impact on an already troubled aviation industry,” said BA.
Airlines UK, the industry association representing UK-registered carriers, said in a statement: “Public health must be the priority but this shows why regional travel corridors need to be considered, so that travel to safe parts of a red country can continue.
“We also need to see the introduction of testing at UK airports so that those who are COVID-negative can continue to travel without the need to self-isolate upon arrival.”
Spain had previously made the UK’s “safe list”, released on 3 June. However, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has now also advised against all but essential travel to the Spanish mainland.
The new rules came into effect from midnight Sunday, and apply equally to passengers arriving in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.