Quarantine delivers new blow for travel industry
EasyJet shares were among those hit (pic: Terry Murden)
Airlines and airports fear the latest quarantine restrictions have shattered any hopes of a recovery any time soon.
Shares across the aviation sector plunged as new outbreaks of coronavirus and lockdowns threatened a further squeeze on travel.
Thousands of Britons cut short their holidays and seek flights home in an attempt to beat a new quarantine imposed on travellers arriving from France, Netherlands and Malta after 4am Saturday.
Airlines were once again forced to offer compensation for cancelled trips.
More than £1.4billion was wiped off the value of Britain’s leading travel companies
Shares in EasyJet, whose UK-France routes account for 14% of capacity, dropped by 6.8%.
British Airways parent IAG fell 5.7% while Air France-KLM lost 5.6% and Ryanair 5.2%.
EasyJet had just announced the successful sale and leaseback of aircraft to ease its balance sheet, while IAG is considering a monster rights issue.
Tui, Britain’s biggest tour operator, plunged 8.4%.
Hotels were also hit with Whitbread, which owns Premier Inn, losing 3.2% and Intercontinental Hotels, which owns Holiday Inn and Crowne Plaza hotels, losing 1.8%.
The sector has seen £21.3 billion wiped off its value in the past six months equivalent to 36% of its total market capitalisation, according to data from AJ Bell.
Analysts said concern stretched beyond the immediate summer, already regarded as a write-off, and into the longer term.
On Thursday the International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicted a 60% decline in 2020 passenger numbers.
IATA on Friday criticised Britain’s “stop-go-stop” approach to travel restrictions, saying it put 780,000 UK jobs at risk.
“The urgent priority is to implement pragmatic alternatives to quarantine,” the airline body said on Twitter.
But the UK and devolved governments said they were presented with data on Thursday showing an alarming rise in cases of the virus in France and the Netherlands and had no choice but to act quickly on public health grounds.
However, some believe the answer is better and targeted testing. John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow, has previously called for travellers to be tested before they fly and issued with coronavirus passports.
Manuel Cortes, leader of the TSSA union, said, “We understand that the government quarantine regime is in place to protect us from Covid-19.
“However, the way the policy has been adopted has at times been utterly shambolic and the government’s messaging leaves an awful lot to be desired.
“Most importantly, Rushi Sunak’s “one size fits all support” policies for businesses and workers are causing great harm to our travel industry.
“Travel companies can’t go to back business as usual until the public are confident that they can take a holiday with absolute certainty that it won’t be disrupted by the need to quarantine.
“Even at this late hour is still not too late for the government to put in place a bespoke support package which stops our members losing their jobs whether they work in travel shops in or high-street, foreign exchange or Eurostar.”
Among those able to find ways of reaching homes was a musical ensemble from Scotland who chartered a fishing boat to make it home on time.
The Dunedin Consort wrote on Twitter: “Au revoir France! As exits from concerts go, this one is quite unique. We’re sailing back to the UK on a fishing boat overnight to beat the quarantine.”