Theresa May attacked the government’s “chaotic” approach to foreign travel yesterday when she warned that Britain had closed its doors to the world despite having one of the most advanced vaccination programs.
In an open intervention, the former prime minister said the government had failed to deliver on its repeated promises to negotiate international agreements on safe travel. He said the UK had “regressed” by reducing the number of countries people can visit, although most adults were already fully vaccinated.
May criticized as a “mixed message” the lifting of the ban on leisure travel abroad only for ministers to discourage travel to “amber” countries, the overwhelming majority.
Chris Grayling, the former Secretary of Transportation, Huw Merriman, Conservative chairman of the transportation committee, and Sir Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative Parliamentarians, also criticized the government, amid speculation that the green list would not be extended until next year. by the end of next month at the earliest.
May’s intervention came as British Airways prepared to put thousands of employees on full-time leave and thousands on reduced hours in the latest setback for the aviation markets.
BA employees were briefed on the plans within hours after UK airlines pressured Rishi Sunak, the chancellor, to extend his licensing support for the crippled sector beyond September.
The decision to send many of its 30,000 workers home indefinitely as of Monday follows BA’s decision to lay off 10,000 workers last year.
The final straw for the airline is understood to have been the removal of Portugal from the green travel list.
An industry source said the timing of BA’s decision would embarrass the government when world leaders meet in Cornwall to discuss, among other things, how economies could recover from the pandemic.
BA declined to reveal the number of employees on leave, but said they were not on security duties. The government needed to follow “its risk-based framework to reopen international travel as soon as possible, putting more low-risk countries, such as the United States, on its green list,” the airline said. Sources said the majority license would include pilots and cabin crew, ground crew and people at headquarters, but those in critical safety or operational roles were exempt.
Unite, the union, which has disagreed with BA management for years, said the move was “a direct consequence of the government’s lack of transparency and its decision-making process regarding the travel industry.”
Oliver Richardson, the union’s aviation officer, said: “While the rest of UK industry is reducing permit use and returning to work, the aviation sector is forced to move in the totally opposite direction.” .
BA said its summer flight schedules were in the hands of ministers and the lifting of travel restrictions and / or the introduction of safe travel protocols.
Its parent company, International Consolidated Airlines (IAG), which includes Iberia of Spain and Aer Lingus of Ireland, has said it is burning € 200 million a month. In the first quarter of the year, the group’s losses exceeded € 1 billion, after losses of € 7.4 billion in 2020. BA is by far its largest unit.