Airline chiefs warn thousands of jobs at risk if Nicola Sturgeon refuses to follow England’s travel rules

·3 min read
Nicola Sturgeon during First Minister's Questions at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood - Jeff J Mitchell /PA
Nicola Sturgeon during First Minister's Questions at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood - Jeff J Mitchell /PA

Aviation leaders including the heads of TUI, easyJet and Jet2 have warned Nicola Sturgeon tens of thousands of jobs will be at risk if she refuses to follow England by axing quarantine for double-jabbed travellers from amber countries.

In a joint letter to the First Minister, the leaders of seven major companies in the sector urged her to emulate the UK Government by introducing the exemption from July 19, when she intends to lower restrictions to Level 0 across Scotland.

They said that “connectivity is vital for Scotland, with current restrictions causing further ongoing damage to Scottish aviation and Scottish businesses, jeopardising tens of thousands of jobs up and down the country that depend on Scotland’s air links”.

Arguing that the summer season in England “essentially starts now”, they said Ms Sturgeon could safely introduce a similar measure as “easing restrictions for fully vaccinated travellers is supported by the science”.

Their intervention further increases the pressure on Ms Sturgeon to come into line with England when she makes a Covid statement to a specially-recalled Scottish Parliament on Tuesday.

Currently fully vaccinated adults and children must quarantine at home for 10 days when they arrive in Scotland from amber countries, which include the vast majority of popular tourist destinations, such as France and mainland Spain.

Ms Sturgeon said last week that she was “carefully considering” whether to follow suit, but the Airport Operators Association warned that if she refused Scottish passengers would merely start flying from English airports.

The new letter to her was signed by Tim Alderslade, the chief executive of Airlines UK, the trade body representing carriers operating in this country.

Among the other signatories were Johan Lundgren, the chief executive officer of easyJet, Steve Heapy, his counterpart at Jet2, and Andrew Flintham, the managing director of TUI in the UK and Ireland.

Jonathan Hinkles, the chief executive of Loganair, Derek Provan, the chief executive of AGS Airports, and Gordon Dewar, the chief executive of Edinburgh Airport, also added their names.

They said the change in England “will provide far greater opportunities for people to travel, do business and see family and friends, often after many months apart”.

“We urge you to support travellers and Scotland’s aviation sector by bringing a quarantine exemption into effect for fully vaccinated UK residents from July 19, and would be very happy to provide any further information or data on how the sector can support and enable implementation," they concluded.

A Scottish government spokesman said: “We are considering relaxing restrictions for fully vaccinated travellers arriving from amber list countries, but it needs to be fair and deliverable.

“Where possible we will look to adopt a four-nation approach for the reopening of international travel. However, decisions on border health measures are a devolved matter and will be taken by ministers on the basis of evidence and with the safety of our communities as our primary concern.

“If the clinical and scientific advice is that it is safe and appropriate to treat vaccinated travellers differently, we will consider changes to the restrictions and we will make an announcement on that shortly.”