Airlines braced for quarantine rules chaos

Oliver Gill
Passengers wearing PPE walk through the arrivals hall after landing at at Terminal Two of London Heathrow Airport - AFP

Airlines and airports are bracing for chaos on Monday after they were issued with strict new quarantine rules on Friday afternoon, leaving them with a race to implement them.

Passengers arriving in the UK must fill out an online form 48 hours before they travel. Operational guidance issued to airlines on how the 14-day quarantine will be administered, seen by The Telegraph, reveals those flying and airlines face hefty fines for failing to comply with the rules.

A 23-page document was shared with bosses shortly before 4pm on Friday, with orders that the rules need to be in place by Monday morning.

The timing of the Government edict is likely to further anger airlines.

British Airways' parent company is considering legal action in an attempt to overturn quarantine on international arrivals to the UK. Willie Walsh, chief executive of IAG, said he was consulting lawyers about a legal challenge to protect airlines from an "irrational and disproportionate" measure that would wreck the aviation industry.

Ryanair said it would support "any legal action launched by IAG against this ineffective quarantine." EasyJet is understood to have backed the legal challenge. The Luton-based airline declined to comment.

Simon Dolan, the businessman, also threatened to seek a judicial review.

Quarantine will require all international arrivals, including returning Britons, to self-isolate for 14 days. It will be reviewed after three weeks, during which time the aviation industry is pressing for "air bridges" to be introduced. The operational rules say "carriers should remind passengers that they could be subject to criminal sanctions upon arrival" if they fail to fill out the necessary forms.

The guidance also includes a script for on-board announcements and posters to be put up in airports.

The Home Office said last night that the online form had been published on the website on Thursday. Aviation bosses said it was not shared with them until Friday afternoon.

BA is planning up to 12,000 redundancies, while Virgin Atlantic has announced more than 3,000 job cuts, Ryanair at least 3,000 and easyJet plans to axe up to 4,500 posts. Mr Walsh said the introduction of quarantine would "torpedo" the opportunity for BA to get flights back in July. He said: "We think [quarantine] is irrational, we think it's disproportionate, and we are giving consideration to a legal challenge.

"It's important to point out there was no consultation with the industry prior to enacting this legislation."

Setting out the airline's "unsustainable" financial position in a letter to MPs, he said it was burning through about £20 million of cash a day.

His intervention came after a furious row with the Government on Thursday after it boycotted an industry summit with Priti Patel to discuss her quarantine plans. BA failed to turn up.

Tim Alderslade, from Airlines UK, said: "The Government needs to ask whether it wants any connectivity this summer. If it does then it must work to get travel corridors established as soon as possible ... we need clarity within days rather than weeks."

No 10 said it would not comment on the proposed legal action. A Government spokesman said: "We have been clear that public health measures at the border would be in place from June 8 ... the form to provide contact details has been live since Thursday, giving those travelling more than enough time.

"There has been full consultation with the aviation industry on the requirement to provide public health information to passengers."