The bosses of easyJet, Tui and Jet2.com are among senior aviation figures calling on Nicola Sturgeon to follow Westminster’s lead and lift quarantine for fully vaccinated amber list arrivals or risk further damage to Scotland’s aviation sector.
Airlines UK, the trade body for UK registered airlines, has written to first minister Sturgeon seeking "clarification" on whether and when Scotland will align with the new rules set out by transport secretary Grant Shapps last week, which will come into effect from 19 July.
The letter, signed by easyJet chief executive Johan Lundgren, Jet2.com chief executive Steve Heapy and Tui UK and Ireland managing director Andrew Flintham, urges Sturgeon to commit to the same timetable. It is co-signed by Loganair chief executive Jonathan Hinkles, Edinburgh airport and AGS Airports chiefs Gordon Dewar and Derek Provan, and Airlines UK chief Tim Alderslade.
Together, they describe last Thursday’s announcement as a "positive move towards the genuine reopening the sector has been looking for", adding it would not only given people greater opportunity to travel but also provide a lifeline for Scotland aviation and travel sectors.
"While this progress will need to be built upon – by many more countries being safely added to the green list and through further steps to remove onerous testing requirements to open up more non-quarantine travel to all – the summer season, for England at least, essentially starts now.
"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. We urge you to support travellers and Scotland’s aviation sector by bringing a quarantine exemption into effect for fully vaccinated UK residents from 19 July."
The plea to Sturgeon comes after SPAA president Joanne Dooey warned 2021 was set to follow 2020 as a "second catastrophic year" for Scotland’s travel industry, adding that it was vital the Scottish government outlined a way forward for Scottish travel as a matter of urgency – including the role to be played by testing and vaccine certification.
Airlines UK’s letter said the sector had been "consistently and full supportive" of the public health measures enacted by both the UK and Scottish governments, including heavily restricting travel from many red list countries. However, it stressed ministers must take account of any mitigations.
"We know vaccination is the primary means of enabling us to live with Covid-19 and return to normal life," it read. "Today, given the success of the UK’s vaccination programme and proven efficacy of vaccines against Covid-19 variants, including the Delta variant, easing restrictions for fully vaccinated travellers is supported by the science.
"It is also consistent with the unlocking occurring across the domestic economy, and internationally including across the EU through their own Digital Covid Certificate which, from 1 July, has enshrined the principle that fully vaccinated EU nationals should be exempted from travel restrictions."