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UK Effectively Grounds Non-Essential Flying in New COVID-19 Lockdown

A new quarantine rule is cutting off all non-essential overseas travel into December, as COVID-19 cases continue to spike across the country. Airlines – which pinned some of their hopes on an increase from holiday travelers – were reportedly blindsided by the move.

Ed. note: This article has been edited from the original, which incorrectly reported the entire nation of the United Kingdom was locking down. It is only the state of England under lockdown. The reporter erred. 

The British government reportedly did not tell airlines a complete lockdown on non-essential travel for England was coming, but leaders say it could be the only way to prevent the COVID-19 pandemic from ravaging the nation. Bloomberg reports the nation’s major carriers were completely blindsided by the decision to lockdown England for four weeks.

Airlines Come Up With Contingency Plans to Deal With Lockdown

The shutdown rules for England were announced by the British government on Saturday, Oct. 31, 2020. Under the plans, all non-essential businesses will close for the month of November, including bars and restaurants. Travelers will not be allowed to stay overnight at a place that is not their primary home (like a hotel), or take any vacations, either within the United Kingdom or abroad.

As a result, airlines are now coming up with contingency plans to survive the 32-day lockdown. British low-cost carrier EasyJet says their flights will temporarily end on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, as they anticipate most of their schedule will be cancelled due to the new restrictions. Meanwhile, London Heathrow Airport (LHR) – now Europe’s second largest airport and the only one among the four busiest to not have a COVID-19 testing plan organized – says airlines will need help in order to survive what translates effectively to a ground order.

“Britain is falling behind because we’ve been too slow to embrace passenger testing,” LHR chief executive John Holland-Kaye said in a press release. “Bringing in pre-departure COVID tests and partnering with our US allies to open a pilot airbridge to America will kickstart our economic recovery and put the UK back ahead of our European rivals.”

Government officials say the latest lockdown is the only way to stop the spread of COVID-19. NPR reports in a statement to the British Parliament, prime minister Boris Johnson said there was “no alternative” to the shutdown order. When the lockdown is lifted, LHR says the government will introduce COVID-19 testing for passengers from “high risk” countries in order to encourage travel once more. It is unclear which countries will be placed on the “high risk” list to start.

COVID-19 Response Forces Closures of Other Airports

England isn’t the only one dealing with grounded aircraft due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Irish Times reports Ryanair is closing their operations at both Cork Airport (ORK) and Shannon Airport (SNN) throughout the winter, as they anticipate incredibly low bookings throughout the months of November and December 2020.


mhrb November 3, 2020

How about some basic research. UK is not an island nation. Newly announced lockdown doesn't apply to the UK.

CazzieBo November 3, 2020

The lockdown is in ENGLAND. Wales and Scotland are managing the situation differently.

Global Adventurer November 3, 2020

This is a good example of why it's like playing musical chairs with flying these days. Last moment changes and cancellations.

Neiltoo November 3, 2020

Incorrect. Those measures were for England not the whole of the UK

TCASAlert November 3, 2020

It's just England going into lockdown - so holidays overseas are allowed from Wales and Scotland. Travel for work is also allowed - like last time (and most traffic right now is for business in any case).