British Airways parent IAG warned on Thursday it would not restart flying if the UK imposed a 14-day quarantine on passengers arriving in the country.
“If there is a 14-day quarantine, I wouldn’t expect us to be doing any flying in that situation, or very little flying,” Willie Walsh, chief executive of IAG, said.
He added he could not see “an environment where people will want to fly into the UK if they are forced to quarantine for 14 days”.
Grant Shapps, UK transport secretary, is considering quarantine measures for all arrivals into the country once travel restrictions are lifted as part of the government’s phased exit from lockdown.
The scheme, which would be similar to quarantines in other countries, has been attacked by some in the industry because they fear it would further damage a sector already reeling from coronavirus.
Mr Walsh’s criticism came as IAG said it was hoping to make a “meaningful” return to the skies in July.
The airline said it expected passenger capacity to be down by about 50 per cent for the year as a whole, although Mr Walsh said this was dependent on governments alleviating lockdowns and travel restrictions.
The carrier also warned that further job cuts would be needed across the group for it to survive the blow inflicted by the disease. IAG predicted it would take three years before passenger demand returned to normal. It said it would defer deliveries of 68 aircraft.
The airline group last week announced BA would be cutting up to 12,000 jobs, equating to almost 30 per cent of its 42,000-strong workforce.
Mr Walsh declined to comment on how many job cuts could be made at its other airlines, which include Iberia, Vueling and Aer Lingus, but he noted it had already carried out a very deep restructuring at Iberia and Aer Lingus in recent years.
Hopes of a swift resolution to the crisis have evaporated in recent weeks, with airlines widely expecting it to take years before demand returns to 2019 levels. This has prompted carriers to shift from furloughing workers to making redundancies.
IAG revealed it had raised £300m from the UK’s Coronavirus Corporate Financing Facility, adding to the €1bn it had accessed from Spain’s Instituto de Crédito Oficial facility to boost its liquidity.
Mr Walsh rejected suggestions he had previously said he was opposed to state aid. He said he was happy to access general support schemes that were provided by the government, but added: “I’m opposed to illegal state aid, which typically applies to state aid given to a failed company.”
In reference to BA’s rival Virgin Atlantic seeking a £500m bailout from the UK government, Mr Walsh said the airline was entitled to apply to the general schemes that were available for everybody.
“I don’t think it’s a failed company,” he said. “I wouldn’t define it as a very well-run company because clearly they haven’t been profitable. I think with the right management team at Virgin and the right focus I think it’s a business that could be run profitably.”
Elsewhere, Air France-KLM said it was preparing for years of shrunken demand and is gearing up for a “drastic reduction” in some flights in France to meet state conditions for financial support.
Additional reporting by David Keohane in Paris
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