U.K. Airlines Urge Johnson to Lay Out Path for Travel Reopening

The U.K. airline industry stepped up a campaign to persuade Prime Minister Boris Johnson that travel should be included in his plan to reopen the economy, calling for a clear road map to ease travel restrictions ahead of the crucial summer season.

In a webinar organized by lobby group Airlines UK, heads of carriers including EasyJet Plc and Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. stressed the importance of the sector to the economy and employment. Without measures to reopen, the industry would need a support package to survive and protect jobs, EasyJet Chief Executive Officer Johan Lundgren said.

Overseas trips are effectively banned for most British people under lockdown rules, while incoming travelers are forced to take multiple Covid-19 tests and, in many cases, mandatory hotel quarantines.

Johnson is under pressure to help the U.K. economy rebound from its worst recession in 300 years. He is due to set out a plan for easing the rules on Feb. 22, and has said he will look closely at the data regarding infections, hospitalizations and deaths before making any decisions.

The usually lucrative summer season is when European airlines tend to make most of their revenue. Without a reopening in time for summer, carriers would have faced the equivalent of four consecutive winters since the pandemic began, said Jonathan Hinkles, the CEO of Scottish regional carrier Loganair.

The head of planemaker Airbus SE said Thursday that government decisions on whether to reopen borders or continue with restrictions will have an impact on the aviation industry’s comeback.

“The pace of recovery will not only depend on the evolution of the pandemic and rate and effectiveness of vaccines, but also the reaction of governments,” CEO Guillaume Faury said on a conference call.

A majority of U.K. travel firms expect to lay off more than 20% of their staff without a clear reopening plan after May 1, campaign group Save Our Summer said in a release, citing a poll. That would amount to more than 500,000 positions, it said.

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