The United Kingdom’s air transport crisis threatens to put 820,000 people out of work.

The damage has been exacerbated by government policies, particularly the imposition of quarantine measures that kill demand for air travel. Without immediate action, the United Kingdom will fall behind international partners and will quickly lose its position as the third biggest global aviation market.

IATA proposes a four-point plan to outline a roadmap for lifting quarantine measures and create a short-term boost to demand:

  • A testing regime, to unlock travel from high-risk countries
  • A review of the infection threshold for quarantine that is fully transparent and aligned with international partners
  • A suspension of Air Passenger Duty to kick-start demand
  • An extension of the furlough scheme for the air transport sector until border restrictions are lifted and the industry has a chance to recover.

There is evidence that the UK people support the testing approach. In the latest IATA survey of passenger attitudes, two-thirds of people surveyed in the country agreed that people who test negative for COVID should not have to quarantine, and 62% of people feel that COVID-19 is sufficiently under control to open up borders.

The present UK methodology for calculating which states should be subject to quarantine is opaque, but a frequently quoted metric is the threshold of 20 infections per 100,000 of population. This level is not aligned with other European states.

Aviation directly sustained more than 1.5 million jobs in the UK economy in 2019. The collapse in air traffic is estimated to have already caused the loss of 733,000 jobs and GBP51.4 billion in GDP. If border restrictions and quarantine continue until the end of the year, an additional 87,000 jobs and GBP4.6 billion of GDP will be lost.

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