British Airways boycotts summit with Priti Patel amid furious row

British Airways boycotts summit with Priti Patel amid furious row

June 5, 2020

BA boss Willie Walsh may launch legal challenge against government’s ‘irrational’ 14-day quarantine – as senior execs boycott summit with Priti Patel after branding it a ‘waste of time’

  • Willie Walsh said there was no consultation with the industry prior to change
  • British Airways boycotted a meeting between Priti Patel and the travel industry
  • The Home Office received no reply from BA after being invited, it is understood
  • Industry sources claimed the airline believes quarantine plans to be ‘unworkable’
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

The boss of British Airways may launch a legal challenge against the government’s ‘irrational’ 14-day quarantine.

Chief Executive of IAG Willie Walsh said there had been no consultation with the industry prior to the rule change and he was reviewing possible action with lawyers.

It comes after BA boycotted a meeting between the Home Secretary and the travel industry to discuss the plan.

It is understood the Home Office received no reply from the firm after inviting it to the meeting, which was attended by several other airlines yesterday.

The new rule means from June 8 people flying into the UK need to isolate for 14 days, deterring people from booking holidays in another setback for the travel industry.

Mr Walsh told Sky News: ‘I wrote to MPs last night to say this initiative has in effect torpedoed our opportunity to get flying in July.

‘We think it is irrational, we think it is disproportionate and we are giving consideration to a legal challenge to this legislation.’ He said he expected other airlines to follow suit.

Chief Executive of IAG Willie Walsh (pictured today) said there had been no consultation with the industry prior to the rule change and he was reviewing possible action with lawyers

It is understood the Home Office received no reply from British Airways (BA) after being invited to the meeting, which was attended by several of its airline competitors, including Virgin Atlantic, easyJet and Jet2 yesterday (pictured: Home Secretary Priti Patel)

Overall, 24 representatives from the aviation, maritime and international rail industries attended, as well as transport minister Kelly Tolhurst.

BA’s chief executive Alex Cruz declined to join the call with Home Secretary Priti Patel.

Sources claimed the airline believes the new plans are ‘unworkable’ and damaging for the economy, making the meeting a ‘waste of time’, the Telegraph reports.

A Whitehall source said it was a ‘shame’ one of the UK’s largest airlines turned down the opportunity for ‘face time’ with a Cabinet minister and to work with Government.

BA chief executive Alex Cruz declined to join the call with Home Secretary Priti Patel

A spokeswoman for the airline confirmed neither BA nor its owner International Airlines Group (IAG) were at the meeting.  

Ministers continue to face pressure over the planned blanket 14-day quarantine for travellers to the UK due to come into force from June 8.

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye has said that quarantine posed ‘a real existential threat’ to the industry -which was crucial for the British economy.

Poll shows a THIRD of public think Priti Patel’s 14-day quarantine on UK arrivals should be even tougher 

A poll for MailOnline by Redfield & Wilton Strategies found 42 per cent are satisfied with the quarantine move, and 35 per cent believe it does not go far enough

A third of Britons want the government’s 14-day quarantine to be even tougher, a poll found today – despite scientists dismissing the plan as pointless.  

Research for MailOnline found overwhelming support for the restrictions on UK arrivals announced by Priti Patel yesterday. 

With only very limited exceptions for lorry drivers and NHS workers, from Monday everyone coming to the country by plane, rail or sea will be ordered to give an address and self-isolate for two weeks, with spot checks from officials. 

Experts insist the measures will make no difference while the UK’s own transmission rates are so high, while the aviation industry has warned of mas redundancies as the UK ‘puts up a closed sign’.

But the exclusive poll by Redfield & Wilton Strategies found 42 per cent are satisfied with the move, and 35 per cent believe it does not go far enough.

The study, carried out this week, also underlines the extent of ‘coronahobia’ among the public, with 73 per cent saying they would not feel safe in a plane in the near future.

There are deep doubts over the the prospect of ‘air bridges’ to low-infection countries, even though they could allow people to take foreign holidays without the need to quarantine for two weeks at either end. 

Some 42 per cent support the idea, being worked on by ministers, but 39 per cent were against it.

‘These are real jobs we need to protect. If we don’t have a plan from the Government on how we are going to reopen the economy those jobs are at risk,’ said Mr Holland-Kaye.

‘So far we have seen warm words about this but we haven’t seen action. Unless we can see that action that gives us confident we won’t be able to take the measures that are needed to get the economy moving and save people’s holidays.

‘In those kinds of situations, businesses are at risk of their very existence. We are all running out of cash very quickly. Unless we can see light at the end of the tunnel, we are going to start making decisions to cut capacity, to cut jobs and that will have a devastating impact on livelihoods.’

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary has said the plans would ‘do untold damage to British tourism’.

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh has also criticised the quarantine plan, and said plans to help the airline industry recover have been ‘seriously set back’ by politicians making negative comments about Britons travelling abroad this year.

He has also accused unions of trying to ‘intimidate’ BA and delay redundancy consultations.

In April, BA announced it planned to reduce its workforce by more than a quarter as it does not expect demand for air travel to return to 2019 levels before 2023.

It had already furloughed around 23,000 staff under the Government’s Job Retention Scheme, which pays 80% of wages up to £2,500 a month. 

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey said the airline’s workers, passengers and shareholders deserved to know why the airline’s management did not attend the roundtable meeting with Priti Patel on Thursday.

He said: ‘The Government has opened the door and the entire UK aviation industry is meeting – airline carriers and airports – in an effort to find a way through this crisis.

‘It is unbelievable and, frankly irresponsible, that BA would sit this out.

‘Thousands of airline and airport jobs across this country are currently hanging by a thread, yet BA spurns the opportunity to work with industry and Government to pull together at this time of huge upheaval.’

On Wednesday, MPs and Unite called for BA to lose some of its Heathrow slots due to cutting jobs while receiving tens of million of pounds of taxpayers’ money.

Ms Tolhurst said the Government would be ‘looking at’ ensuring the slots allocation process ‘encourages competition’.

She said the furlough scheme ‘was not designed for taxpayers to fund the wages of employees, only for those companies to put the same staff on notice of redundancy during the furlough period’.

In an internal letter to staff, BA chief executive Alex Cruz stated that ‘every slot lost will lead to jobs in BA being permanently lost’ and he insisted he wanted to ‘save as many jobs as possible’.

Mr McCluskey said on Thursday: ‘This is a company that claims to be in crisis, a crisis that requires them to sack their entire workforce of 42,000, yet they will not attend a meeting where help could have been offered.’

He described the airline’s conduct as ‘extraordinary’, adding: ‘This betrayal will not be forgotten or forgiven by the British public’.

‘BA has to come to their senses and get round the table with ministers and Unite to stop this destruction of not just our national carrier but the ruin BA’s actions will bring to this sector as a whole,’ he said.

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