Travelers to Britain are now being required to go into quarantine for two weeks — a sweeping measure meant to halt the further spread of COVID-19.
Starting Monday, all passengers will be asked to fill in a form detailing where they will self-isolate, with only a few exceptions. Those who fail to comply with the quarantine rules could be fined.
Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said that the quarantine will cause “untold devastation” for the country’s tourism industry — not just for the airlines.
He told the BBC that hotels, visitor attractions and restaurants will also be hurt, and thousands of jobs will be lost.
Three airlines have written to the British government in protest at its “wholly unjustified and disproportionate” quarantine rules.
Describing itself as a “pre-action protocol letter,” meaning it could be followed by legal action, the letter from British Airways, Ryanair and easyJet said the government had failed to justify the blanket nature of the regulations.
“The effect is to establish a wholly unjustified and disproportionate restriction on individuals travelling to England (and questionably the United Kingdom) and will inevitably mean that there is very little increase in the numbers of persons leaving and entering the country,” the letter said.
Willie Walsh, the chief executive of BA owner IAG, said on Friday the industry had not been consulted and the company was considering a legal challenge.
The government has said the new regime will be in place across Britain, although enforcement measures will be set individually by each of the devolved nations. In England, a breach of rules will be punishable with a £1,000 ($1,266) fine.
The airlines say the quarantine measures are more stringent than those imposed on people suspected of being or confirmed to be infected by the coronavirus who are asked to isolate and do not face criminal sanctions.
Their letter also said it was “illogical and irrational” to impose quarantine on people arriving from European Union countries that have lower infection rates than Britain.