British Airways’ parent company is considering taking legal action against the Government’s decision to impose a 14-day quarantine on international arrivals.
IAG chief executive Willie Walsh described the policy as “terrible” and warned it has “torpedoed our opportunity to get flying in July”.
He told Sky News: “We think it’s irrational, we think it’s disproportionate, and we are giving consideration to a legal challenge to this legislation.
“We’re reviewing that with the lawyers later on today.
We do believe it is an irrational piece of legislationWillie Walsh, IAG
“I suspect there are other airlines who are doing so because it’s important to point out there was no consultation with the industry prior to enacting this legislation.
“We do believe it is an irrational piece of legislation.”
Downing Street said it would not comment on the proposed legal action over ministers’ plans to quarantine visitors for two weeks.
From Monday, people arriving in the UK will need to self-isolate for 14 days.
There has been widespread concern that this will cause huge damage to the travel and aviation sectors as they recover from the coronavirus outbreak.
Home Secretary Priti Patel has insisted the rule is “backed by the science” and is “essential” to save lives.
IAG had previously said it intends to make “a meaningful return to service” in July.
British Airways declined to join a meeting between Ms Patel and the travel industry to discuss the quarantine on Thursday.
It is understood the Home Office received no reply from the airline after being invited to the discussion, which was attended by several of its competitors including Virgin Atlantic, easyJet and Jet2.
Len McCluskey, general secretary of union Unite, said it was “frankly irresponsible that BA would sit this out”.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “As the Home Secretary said at yesterday’s meeting, we want to work with industry across the board through this pandemic – that includes BA.
“Obviously we’re disappointed they chose not to attend the meeting.”
The airline has announced plans to cut up to 12,000 jobs as part of a restructuring.
It was confirmed by the Bank of England on Thursday that it has lent £300 million to IAG as part of its emergency pandemic funding.
I do want to see this opened up, we do want to see people being able to travel againTransport Secretary Grant Shapps
Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he held on to “hope” that foreign trips would be able to resume before the year is out.
Asked whether he would personally be booking a holiday this year, Mr Shapps told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Of course we all hope – let’s give ourselves some hope here – that by later in the year we will have continued to do all the things we have just talked about and got on top of this virus and the signs are in the right direction.”
When put to him that it sounded like he was suggesting he would not be going abroad, he added: “I’m not saying that – I’m simply saying that at the moment the advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office is for only essential travel.
“That advice would need to change in order to book a ticket knowing you would definitely be able to travel and that your travel insurance and that sort of thing would be valid.
“But I do want to see this opened up, we do want to see people being able to travel again – of course we all desperately want to ensure we get on top of this and that this virus isn’t killing people.”
Mr Shapps confirmed ministers were continuing to look at the concept of so-called “air corridors” – allowing travel with countries where Covid-19 transmission was low – but said there was no impending announcement to be made.