Addition of the country onto UK’s quarantine list has immediate impact on aviation sector
Following the reintroduction of quarantine measures for travellers returning from Spain on July 25, the number of flights to the country from the UK dropped sharply in the days that followed.
According to statistics by aviation data and analytics firm Cirium, on the day of announcement 220 scheduled rotations were flown. Over the following two days, flights numbers declined to 180 and then 160, respectively.
On July 27, Ryanair was the leading operator for flights between the UK and Spain, with approximately 50. Jet2.com and easyJet operated nearly 40 links each, while flag carrier British Airways flew just 20 services.
Passenger numbers to five Spanish airports which receive the highest UK scheduled traffic – Alicante, Barcelona, Madrid, Malaga and Tenerife/South – had seen almost no scheduled connections since the middle of April as Europe entered lockdown. However, figures started to slowly rise in July after the UK government classified Spain, along with around 60 other countries, to be included in its ‘travel corridor’ list.
While those arriving after July 26 must self-isolate for two weeks, the government has stated on its website that travellers arriving before would not have to go into quarantine. According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, Spain’s COVID-19 infection rate was 39.4 per 100,000 people towards the end of July. This was deemed too high by UK government officials. In contrast, the UK recorded 14.6 per 100,000.
By the end of August, it’s estimated that around 1.8 million travellers were due to fly between the UK and Spain. It remains unclear when quarantine restrictions will be lifted, although they are to be reviewed every few weeks.
With the sudden implementation, there have been critical responses by both airlines and unions. The British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) has asked for “clarity” on its “border policies” which are negatively impacting the economy.
Brian Strutton, BALPA's general secretary, said: “The everchanging advice and guidance is neither protecting the public or inspiring confidence. The travelling public needs clarity. Constantly moving the goal posts and blacklisting whole countries, when only certain regions are a risk, does not help.
“We are asking the Government to sharpen the ‘blunt tool’ approach and look at the COVID-19 problem at a regional and city level rather than blacklisting entire countries.”
Elsewhere, easyJet has echoed this as it asks the government to “review its approach to quarantine rules”.
Garry Wilson, CEO of easyJet holidays, added: “After months of uncertainty as travel restrictions were lifted, we saw encouraging signs of growing demand for holidays. Unfortunately, the recent unstructured re-imposition of quarantine for Spain is creating renewed uncertainty and unpredictability for consumers.”
In response to this argument, in an interview with BBC News, Helen Whately, the UK health minister, said that immediate action had to be undertaken to avoid a second spike. The government has not ruled out putting further countries onto the quarantine list.