IAG, easyJet and Ryanair have started legal proceedings against the government in a bid to overturn quarantine rules to take effect in the UK from Monday.

The airlines have sent a pre-action protocol letter setting out why they believe the moves (expecting passengers arriving from abroad to self-isolate for 14 days) are illogical and unfair. 

The Guardian reported that the letter was sent on Friday.

Airlines and travel firms have protested against the new Home Office-led regulations, saying they came months too late to stop the transmission of coronavirus and will kill off recovery in the industry.

The airlines’ letter argues that the quarantine measures are more severe than those that were in place when the risk of the virus was greater. It also objects that enforcement of the regulations appear to apply to England, and people arriving in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland would not face the same penalties. 

A Ryanair spokesperson, commenting on behalf of the three airlines, said: “These measures are disproportionate and unfair on British citizens as well as international visitors arriving in the UK. We urge the government to remove this ineffective visitor quarantine which will have a devastating effect on the UK’s tourism industry and will destroy even more thousands of jobs in this unprecedented crisis.”

The quarantine row comes after further uproar over British Airways’s plans to cut 12,000 jobs.

The government argues the quarantine rules are science-based and would help limit the risk of a second wave.

Home secretary, Priti Patel, said: “We all want to return to normal as quickly as possible. But this cannot be at the expense of lives. The science is clear that if we limit the risk of new cases being brought in from abroad, we can help stop a devastating second wave.

“That is why the measures coming into force today are necessary. They will help control the virus, protect the NHS and save lives.”

Pilots union BALPA told members on Saturday that BA had increased the number of pilot redundancies it was seeking by another 125 to almost 1,300, more than a quarter of the workforce.

It warned that BA had said it would “force changes by terminating the employment of all pilots and offering individuals new contracts with associated new terms and conditions” if they could not find agreement.

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