HomeGeneral TravelAirlines Take Legal Action Against UK Quarantine Rules

Airlines Take Legal Action Against UK Quarantine Rules

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On Monday, 8 June, the UK introduced the quarantine rules that were originally announced back in May, so most visitors entering the country are now expected to self-isolate for 14 days before they can join the rest of the population and go about their business. The new rules are nothing short of idiotic and now three of the UK’s major airlines have filed legal papers requesting the rules are put to a judicial review.

British Airways, easyJet, and Ryanair have formed an unlikely alliance to challenge the UK government’s quarantine rules amid concerns that they will have a “devastating effect on British tourism and the wider economy and destroy thousands of jobs”.

Last Thursday, British Airways refused to join an industry conference call to discuss the new quarantine rules with the UK’s Home Secretary (Secretary of State) claiming the discussions were “pointless”, but representatives from easyJet and Ryanair joined in and participated on the call. Clearly nothing that was said on that call made very much difference to how the airlines feel about the quarantine rules (as today’s legal motion demonstrates) and now their fate will come down to a High Court review.

Here, in essence, is what the airlines are claiming:

  • There was no consultation with the airline industry before the quarantine rules were introduced.
  • No scientific evidence has been put forward to support the need for the quarantine rules in their current form.
  • The government is unreasonable in preventing people from traveling to and from countries with significantly lower infection rates than the UK.

On all three points the airlines appear to have a good case.

Various scientists who sit on the panel that is advising the government on the current crisis have already stated that they were not consulted on the quarantine measures before they were introduced (link), and they have also confirmed that quarantine measures are best used in situations that do not match with the circumstances the UK currently finds itself in (link).

The statements released by the airlines shortly after the UK’s Prime Minister announced that quarantine restrictions would be put in place demonstrated very clearly that the news was a surprise to most people in the travel industry, and the government hasn’t been able to come up with an answer to the question of why it’s important to quarantine people arriving from countries where the infection rates are significantly lower than those in the UK.

Based on the evidence we’ve seen so far it’s hard to see how the UK government can win this legal challenge to its quarantine rules (if the scientists say they weren’t consulted and that the measures are inappropriate, the government doesn’t have much of an argument) but it may be able to save face by dragging the legal process out. Most people seem to agree that the quarantine rules will not be renewed past the beginning of July so, if the government’s lawyers can stall the judicial process for a few weeks (which I suspect they’ll try very hard to do), the government will be able to claim that the quarantine has served its purpose and that its own review decided that the rules are no longer required.

We will all know that this is nonsense and that the government’s decision to introduce the quarantine rules was taken by people with the combined intellectual capacity of a tree frog…but at least the politicians will be able to walk away in the delusional belief that their dignity and authority remain intact.

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  1. It’s interesting, how, almost none of the responses in the world were driven by science – just fear.

    And, the people LOVE it. It’s really strange.

    Hope the airlines win, but, the damage has been done since March, sadly.

  2. Not sure that the airlines will win. And they do not deserve to.
    Firstly, the Government relies for advice from SAGE which is comprised scientists, doctors, etc with many different areas of expertise. SAGE produce reports for the Government after often heated discussions between the members. So, of course, some members believe we should exit lockdown faster and some think we are exiting too fast. And outside of SAGE there are experts who believe there should never have been lockdown.
    Secondly, BA refused to attend a meeting with the Government. That does not indicate a willingness to discuss on the part of BA.
    Thirdly, the Government has every right to say who can enter the country and under what conditions. It is not under an obligation to follow the wishes of companies who transport these people into the country.
    Fourthly, the airlines are being short sighted. In the next few months the Government will be looking how to stimulate the economy. I can almost guarantee that it will not consider a temporary relaxation of the high levels of APD tax, which would be one way to have helped the Aviation industry.

    • You haven’t addressed the key point which is that the government hasn’t been able to put up a single scientist who is happy to confirm that there is a solid scientific reason for the quarantine rules in their current guise.

      The government has been saying that it’s “following scientific advice” every time it has made a change to the rules during this crisis and yet here it is unable to provide any proof that science was behind the decision to introduce a quarantine. That speaks volumes.

  3. You will forgive me for doubting The Sun.
    In the same article the Government says it did consult with SAGE.
    The same article also quotes “YouGov poll this week showed 63 per cent of people in favour of a blanket quarantine”.
    But the point is the legal challenge is on 3 points:
    1. There was no consultation with the airline industry before the quarantine rules were introduced.
    2. No scientific evidence has been put forward to support the need for the quarantine rules in their current form.
    3. The government is unreasonable in preventing people from traveling to and from countries with significantly lower infection rates than the UK.

    Is the Government legally obliged to consult with the industry (it tried to do so, but BA refused to attend)? It attempted to do so.
    Is it obliged legally to put forward scientific evidence? No.
    Is the Government within it’s powers to prevent people travelling to the UK from countries with lower infection rates? My opinion is Yes.

    • I don’t expect you to believe the Sun but, in the absence of any evidence to the contrary (try googling this) or evidence that that SAGE was (a) consulted or (b) agrees that there’s a scientific basis for the quarantine as it stands, it would seem that there’s a very high probability that the paper is correct in what it wrote.

      The fact that 63% of people in a YouGov poll favor a quarantine doesn’t make a quarantine either necessary or a good idea. Apart from the fact the results of a poll are often defined by how a question is phrased, the idea that a population that is largely ignorant of the science behind what’s going on right now should have a say on whether a quarantine is necessary or not is laughable.

      To your other points:
      1) The government only tried to consult with the industry after the quarantine was introduced.
      2) If the government is going to claim that everything it’s doing is being done on the advice of scientists (which is exactly what it’s claiming) it needs to be able to put up the scientists it claims to have consulted. In this case it cannot….because it is lying.
      3) Government has a broad range of powers that it can use at any time but that doesn’t mean it is always correct when it uses those powers. To suggest otherwise would mean that governments should be allowed to do whatever is in their power whenever they feel like it. I’m reasonably sure you don’t believe that’s a good idea.


  4. […] Lastly, I can’t end this post without shining a light on the idiocy of the group of people that originally came up with the quarantine rules (they weren’t fit for purpose) and who insisted on implementing them despite the government’s own scientists admitting that they were mostly pointless. In the four weeks that the rules have been in place, the health situation in the countries whose residents are now allowed into England without having to self-isolate have not changed for the better (some have actually got marginally worse), and there have been next to no reports of any attempt by the UK authorities to impose the quarantine rules once visitors have left their ports of entry – the whole idea was farcical from start to finish, it served no purpose whatsoever and the only people who benefited from the UK’s quarantine rules were the lawyers representing the airlines who took the government to court. […]

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