New BA boss Sean Doyle demands ministers AXE arrivals quarantine

New British Airways boss Sean Doyle tears into government over travel-killing two week quarantine system and calls for urgent introduction of pre-flight coronavirus testing to save UK airline industry

  • Former Aer Lingus boss Mr Doyle addressed Airlines 2050 conference today
  • He took over the top job at BA last week after Alex Cruz suddenly quit
  • Doyle warned that plan to reduce quarantine to seven days was not enough 

The new head of British Airways demanded the Government scrap its 14-quarantine for new arrivals to Britain today, saying it is having a devastating effect on tourism and business travel.

BA chief executive Sean Doyle said that even plans unveiled by ministers last week to reduce the term in self-isolation from 14 to seven days with a new testing regime did not go far enough.

Addressing the Airlines 2050 conference in a virtual address just a week after taking on the top job at the struggling flag carrier, he said that only a move to pre-flight testing would stop the country being ‘left behind.

But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, addressing the same conference this morning, insisted the plan for a seven-day quarantine followed by release if people test negative ‘could achieve our objectives’.

BA chief executive Sean Doyle said that even plans unveiled by ministers last week to reduce the term in self-isolation from 14 to seven days with a new testing regime did not go far enough

But Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, addressing the same conference this morning, insisted the plan for a seven-day quarantine followed by release if people test negative ‘could achieve our objectives’

Mr Doyle called on the Government to scrap the self-isolation requirement for international arrivals, as ‘we do not believe quarantine is the solution’.

‘We believe the best way to reassure people is to introduce a reliable and affordable test before flying,’ he told the Airlines 2050 conference.

‘For the UK, this approach reduces the stress on the NHS testing systems within the UK and on policing the quarantine system.

‘If we look abroad to our near neighbours, we see that business travel and indeed tourism is being prioritised by some countries.

‘We need to get the economy moving again and this just isn’t possible when you’re asking people to quarantine for 14 days.

‘It’s our view that even if that quarantine period is reduced to seven days, people won’t travel here and the UK will get left behind.’

Mr Shapps told the conference that the Government is developing a coronavirus ‘test and release regime’ for international arrivals.

He told the Airlines 2050 conference: ‘My ministerial colleagues and I have agreed a regime, based on a single test provided by the private sector and at the cost to the passenger, after a period of self-isolation and doing those things could achieve our objectives.

‘The next step is to develop how this approach can be implemented.’

He added: ‘It will mean a single test for international arrivals, a week after arrival.’

Mr Doyle was brought in from Aer Lingus after predecessor Alex Cruz stepped down following a troubled four-year tenure.

Mystery surrounds the sudden departure of Mr Cruz, who less than a month ago faced MPs to defend the airline’s actions during the pandemic.     

Experts claimed claimed that the decision was an example of Luis Gallego, who took over as chief executive of BA parent company IAG last month, trying to stamp his authority on the airline.

Several other management changes were made today with Mr Gallego seemingly wanting to draw a line under Mr Cruz’s difficult tenure, which saw him oversee BA’s first strike, a massive data breach and controversial job losses in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Mr Gallego is hoping to spearhead a recovery for the airline and is thought to have wanted a new face at the helm of BA, with Mr Cruz’s relationship with workers, unions and politicians growing increasingly fractious.

In April, BA announced plans to cut up to 10,000 jobs, 30 per cent of its global workforce. The airline was accused of threatening a ‘fire and rehire’ scheme which saw some employees facing pay cuts of up to 50%.

Trade union Unite claimed it has only carried out a ‘partial U-turn’ on the issue, with ‘still too many BA workers facing threats to their wages and working life’.

In June, the Commons’ Transport Select Committee described the airline’s treatment of its workers as ‘a national disgrace’.

Mr Cruz defended the job cuts last month and said the pandemic has left the national carrier ‘fighting for survival’.         

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