Britain’s travel curbs on airlines during the COVID-19 pandemic were disproportionate, inconsistent and confusing and financially ravaged the sector, UK lawmakers concluded on Monday.
Parliament’s cross-party transport committee delivered the verdict in a key report into aviation during the emergency health crisis. “Government restrictions on international travel throughout the pandemic were disproportionate to the risks to public health,” the report said.
Global aviation was decimated by coronavirus in early 2020 as authorities rushed to contain the deadly outbreak.
Britain imposed passenger testing and quarantine rules, and a ‘traffic light’ system ranking Covid risks from destination countries.
While demand for global air travel is recovering after curbs were lifted, airlines still bear the scars of the crisis that crushed demand, sparking vast financial losses and thousands of job cuts worldwide.
“The way in which the government introduced international travel restrictions during the pandemic was inconsistent, confusing industry and passengers,” the report added on Monday.
“The aviation industry… experienced severe economic difficulties due to government restrictions that were not based on scientific consensus.”
The UK faced staunch industry criticism — particularly from British Airways, EasyJet, and Ryanair — for keeping strict curbs in place longer than neighboring EU nations.
That included multiple changes to the traffic light system.
“As international travel restarted in the summer of 2021, the industry, its workforce and passengers were subjected to a traffic light system that was opaque, ambiguous and inconsistent,” added the report.
The government “struggled” to balance the “competing priorities” of the protecion of public health and the facilitation of air travel.
Conservative MP Huw Merriman, who chairs the committee, urged the government to learn from its mistakes.
“In the face of a global pandemic, today’s report acknowledges the difficult position faced by government,” said Merriman.
“Now that government has removed all coronavirus-related restrictions on international travel, ministers must get on with protecting the sector against future economic shocks and reassuring passengers that future restrictions will only be implemented in extreme circumstances.”