MIAMI – A consortium lead by Virgin Atlantic (VS) CEO Shai Weiss is stepping up the call for updated testing measures and travel guidelines for the UK. More than six months into the COVID-19 pandemic, Weiss warns of long-lasting financial effects if a plan cannot be put in place.

“Without mass testing, the economic recovery of the UK will not take off in its time of need. We now expect an extended recession that will probably go into next year. Some 500,000 jobs in the UK are at risk without action,” said Weiss.

The easyJet (U2), VS, London Heathrow (LHR), and Manchester Airport (MAN) consortium has spoken up in support of testing measures more similar to those in Germany, which would eliminate the mandatory 14-day quarantine period for most passengers.

VS Airbus A340-600, retired from service in late 2019. PHOTO: Luca Flores/Airways

Demands from Shai Weiss

Concerned about falling behind other European countries, Weiss hopes the UK Government will consider updated travel guidelines in the wake of new information about the spread of the COVID-19.

This would include the elimination of 14-day quarantine periods but would require major expansion to the current testing program. Under the scheme, passengers would be tested upon arrival and again five days later.

“We support the decision to opt for a single test, private sector-led, passenger-funded approach, that does not impact on the NHS in any way. But travelers need a firm commitment that a comprehensive testing regime will be implemented in early November,” said the 53-year-old CEO.

Time is of the essence for the UK aviation industry and especially for VS, which was just the recipient of a £1.2bn bailout package.

VS Airbus A350-1000. The UK-based airline will look for long-haul routes to resume to regain cash flow. PHOTO: Kochan Kleps/Airways

VS Testing Measures

Early this week, VS announced the beginning of trials to carry out pre-fight COVID-19 testing for Crew members, becoming the first airline to do so. With results delivered in 30 min at 97% accuracy, VS is looking to expand rapid testing to all Crew members on a monthly basis.

Despite these advancements, however, VS is still looking to the government to makes changes to COVID-19 guidelines. “We need urgent action from UK and US governments to introduce pre-departure testing to remove the need for quarantine and to minimize travel restrictions,” said VS COO Corneel Koster.

“As long as the UK’s 14-day quarantine is in place, demand for travel will not return and the UK’s economic recovery, which relies on free-flowing trade and tourism, cannot take off,” he concluded.

Government response in the coming weeks could be crucial in determining the long-term fate of the UK airline industry.

Featured Image: VS Boeing 747-400. Photo: Kochan Kleps/Airways