European business aviation recovery stunted by UK quarantine rules

Yves Le Marquand

European business aviation recovery has been hampered by the UK government’s new quarantine rules for those entering the country. The 14 day quarantine for all new arrivals has stopped British business aviation’s recovery dead in its tracks, but its impact is being felt across Europe, said WINGX MD and co-founder, Richard Koe.

“London and the UK are key hubs for summer travel,” Koe told Corporate Jet Investor. “It has effected overall travel levels in Europe undoubtedly, and of course it has effected arrivals in other countries as many Britons decide not travel due to the quarantine [they would be forced to adopt on return].”

On June 8th, the UK government announced it was imposing a mandatory 14-day isolation period on all those entering the UK. Unless passengers are arriving from the Republic of Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man, or are covered under a list of 42 different categories, [https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-travell…]. Spot checks will be carried out to confirm compliance and those breaking the quarantine could face a fine of £1,000. 

The decision initiated an immediate drop in business aviation activity virtually to zero, where previously it had recovered to around 10% of its pre-Covid-19 level. Referring to Britain’s presence as the largest charter market in Europe Koe said the quarantine is having a knock-on effect on European business aviation too. Koe added: “So if you look at the recovery made through May, it got completely reversed by the quarantine. So, we are back down the numbers we saw three or four weeks ago.”

‘Completely reversed by the quarantine’

It’s a claim backed by British Business and General Aviation Association (BBGA) CEO Marc Bailey. “People were arriving for business reasons and that traffic has not come back this week as it is not worth coming for a two-week quarantine,” Bailey told Corporate Jet Investor. “The reduction is completely due to the quarantine policy and the annoying thing is we could provide safe tested transfers right now without risk to the UK infection rate.”

Bailey remains hopeful that after 28th June, when the quarantine rules are reviewed, government will agree to relax the restrictions and move to alternate means of compliance (AMC) testing, which has been suggested to government. Bailey continued: “Also, I see a strong chance for corridors to be established between member states and other global destinations depending on the current metrics in each country. Both the AMC and corridors would help us to get back to where we were before quarantine at approximately 120 business aviation passengers per day, only 10% of normal traffic.”

Reopening of European business aviation

The establishment of air corridors is where many hopes of a reopening of European business aviation are pinned. Analysis by WINGX identifies July to be the critical month for European business aviation. Whilst Koe said anecdotal feedback from operators has indicated that bookings have seen a huge improvement in numbers from mid-July onwards. 

It is optimistic news given what recent months have brought. However Koe points out: “[Those booking] are still realistic enough to know that this in itself is going to be quite a small window because it’s likely that by the time October comes, there will be renewed concerns around virus impact. There is a pent-up demand that is likely to be concentrated on that window in July and August. When people think there is going be to relative freedom.”

Koe added: “However this means that there is enormous pressure this year to try to find a window as soon as possible – during July – to get activity back up and the quarantine is pretty cruel in that respect.”

 

A fleet of business jets parked at London Biggin Hill Airport. (Banner Image credit: Colin and Kim HansenWikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0)

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