Get us back on runway to let Global Britain finally take off, writes British Airways chairman SEAN DOYLE
The British public have abided by every rule imposed on them since the first lockdown back in March 2020. For the past 18 months, we have patiently waited for the freedom we were told a successful vaccination programme would bring.
A vaccination programme that turned out to be world-leading, protecting us all from serious illness and death. A vaccination programme that was hailed as an example for other countries to follow.
But no one is following us now. In fact, other countries are powering away. Over the past 18 months, tens of millions of us made sacrifices – agreeing to be separated from our loved ones, some of whom we would never see again.
British Airways CEO Sean Doyle speaks at a news conference at Heathrow Airport in London, Britain, May 17, 2021
No wonder we’re all so confused by the constant changes in the Government’s approach. It feels like one set of rules apply in one area of life and another set of rules in another
My inbox remains full of emails from customers who still cannot travel to see their family and friends, take a holiday or do business because of the restrictions imposed on their freedom. All of our lives have been put on hold – lives, that, according to the Government’s Freedom Day, we should now be able to continue, sensibly assessing risk for ourselves.
The Prime Minister has repeatedly praised the UK’s vaccine rollout as an enabler for Global Britain – a way of putting the UK back on the map and taking economic advantage of the great progress we’ve made.
As Freedom Day approached, the Government indicated that it was up to us now to take personal responsibility for our actions, assessing the risk ourselves and acting sensibly. But the decisions in relation to travel are the exact opposite – the goalposts are constantly shifting, leaving none of us with the certainty we need to plan our lives and our businesses.
No wonder we’re all so confused by the constant changes in the Government’s approach. It feels like one set of rules apply in one area of life and another set of rules in another.
The vaccination programme should have given us the confidence to get back in the air, but we remain largely in a holding pattern thanks to the lack of transparency in decision-making.
Countries have been on the green list, off the green list, moved without notice to the amber list – and then, on Friday, another last-minute change saw France become the only country on the amber list to have to follow the original rules pre-July 19. Meanwhile, our European neighbours are way ahead.
The Prime Minister has repeatedly praised the UK’s vaccine rollout as an enabler for Global Britain – a way of putting the UK back on the map and taking economic advantage of the great progress we’ve made
Livelihoods depend on the travel industry which directly supports 1.5million British jobs and a much wider import and export industry – one the UK depends upon
Travel bookings in Germany are currently at 60 per cent of 2019 levels and in France 48 per cent. In the UK they are 16 per cent – the lowest of all the European markets.
FIgures like these show just how impossibly difficult our customers are finding the rapid and inexplicable changes in rules for travel.
The reality is that life is not returning to normal and our freedom to travel is curtailed. We have every reason to have faith in the vaccines’ ability to combat coronavirus variants. Scientists say the vaccine data is encouraging and they are able to prevent serious illness, hospitalisation and death against the South African Beta variant.
We and our customers deserve a transparent and consistent way forward to plan with certainty. If not now, when will individuals be trusted to take personal responsibility?
Livelihoods depend on the travel industry which directly supports 1.5million British jobs and a much wider import and export industry – one the UK depends upon.
Global Britain is stalling. If we want it to take off, get us on the runway.
Sean Doyle is chairman and chief executive of British Airways
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