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U.K.’s New Quarantine Restrictions Delay Return of Virgin Atlantic’s Passenger Flights

A Virgin Atlantic 787-9 landing in Los Angeles. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

On June 8 the government of the United Kingdom will implement a 14-day mandatory self-isolation rule for all travelers arriving into the country. Throughout the crisis, there have been no self-isolation or quarantine measures in place for arrivals into the U.K. by any means of transportation. The new measures come into place four months after the U.K.’s first Covid-19 case was reported. Since then, the rate of infection from the virus has decreased and a number of lockdown restrictions on citizens have been eased allowing larger groups to meet and non-essential shops to open.

The U.K. government announced the measures to prevent a second wave of the virus and gave the following as rationale, “As the transmission rate in the UK falls, and the number of travelers arriving in the UK begins to increase in the coming months, imported cases may pose a larger threat as they could become a higher proportion of the overall number of infections in the UK and increase the spread of the disease.”

Several countries in Europe have given notice of the future lifting of travel restrictions and airlines had begun to signal a return and expansion of passenger services. The news of a ‘quarantine’ for international arrivals to the U.K. was therefore met with disbelief and scepticism by executives in the travel industry.

Ryanair Group chief executive Michael O’Leary has said that the measures have ‘no credibility’ and are ‘unenforceable’. Prior to the confirmation of the 14-day self-isolation period, Airlines U.K., the trade body for U.K. registered airlines, wrote to the Prime Minister to advise that such measures “will make an already critical situation for UK aviation, and all the businesses we support, even worse… and would effectively kill off air travel.”

Virgin Atlantic has responded to the introduction of the 14-day self-isolation for travelers by delaying the proposed start-up of passenger flights. A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson told Business Traveller this week that, “We are continually reviewing our flying programme and with these restrictions, there simply won’t be sufficient demand to resume passenger services before August at the earliest.” In the last fortnight, the airline had released details of its 2021 summer schedule which included flights to 24 destinations.

The delay in recommencing passenger flights by Virgin Atlantic casts a further shadow over the carrier at a time when it has been seeking funding to survive the fallout of the Covid-19 crisis. Bloomberg reported this week that the airline is seeking to secure “around £750 million ($925 million) to shore up liquidity, including £500 million ($616 million) in private or state funding.” The article by Bloomberg outlined a range of options Virgin Atlantic was reportedly undertaking to secure the funds from investors in the next two to three weeks. In reply to the circumstance the airline acknowledged that ongoing discussions had included the U.K. government and that “the airline remains in a stable position.”

The U.K. government has advised that the 14-day self-isolation measures will be reviewed every three weeks.

John Flett


  • John Flett

    John has always had a passion for aviation and through a career with Air New Zealand has gained a strong understanding of aviation operations and the strategic nature of the industry. During his career with the airline, John held multiple leadership roles and was involved in projects such as the introduction of both the 777-200 and -300 type aircraft and the development of the IFE for the 777-300. He was also part of a small team who created and published the internal communications magazines for Air New Zealand’s pilots, cabin crew and ground staff balancing a mix of corporate and social content. John is educated to postgraduate level achieving a masters degree with Distinction in Airline and Airport Management. John has held the positions of course director of an undergraduate commercial pilot training programme at a leading London university. In addition he is contracted as an external instructor for IATA (International Air Transport Association) and has been a member of the Heathrow Community Fund’s ‘Communities for Tomorrow’ panel.

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