British Airways’ new chief executive has used his first public appearance to blast the government over the quarantine issue.
Sean Doyle was speaking only a week after his appointment.
Addressing the Airlines 2050 conference, Doyle spoke of the urgency to resolve the testing issue.
“First we need agreement to reopen without bulk quarantine measures. At the moment, we are not hearing from governments what they are thinking.”
He said other countries in Europe were being more proactive: “Business travel and indeed tourism are being prioritised by some countries. We need to get our economy moving again and this is just not possible if you are required to quarantine for 14 days.”
Doyle spent more than 20 years at BA before becoming Aer Lingus chief executive in January 2019. Now back at BA, he said the airline had lost £309 million in the first quarter following the 2008 financial crisis, but £711 million in the second quarter of 2020, when the effects of Covid-19 were first felt.
“That was at the start of the crisis; it’s now October and we know this is not a short-term issue.”
“We think the public health risk to flying is low,” he said, adding there had been “as few as 44 cases” of Covid linked to flights with 1.2 billion passengers. “That’s one in 27 million. The vast majority occurred before the wearing of facemasks in flight.”
He added: “We do not believe quarantine is the solution. We believe a better way to reassure people is reliable testing before flying. We need to get our economy moving again and this is just not possible if you are required to quarantine for 14 days.”
Doyle estimated the total loss of trade between the UK and US due to closed borders as £45.8 billion. The airline was flying to fewer than half its US destinations, he said, with New York services now just twice daily “with fewer than 200 passengers”.
He warned: “There is a risk as an industry that we will not see beyond this crisis if we do not first address the issue of how we get people flying again; everything else is for another day.”