Just what has the government got against the airline industry? With other industries brought to their knees by Covid restrictions, ministers have at least made some effort to nurse them back to life. Bars and restaurants were treated to Eat Out to Help Out. High street stores have been offered later opening hours. Sports venues have been allowed to exceed normal restrictions on gatherings in return for comprehensive testing of fans. But airlines? It is as if the government were deliberately trying to suppress their business.
Yesterday, the International Airlines Group (IAG), parent company of British Airways, put most of its staff back on furlough. Until a week ago it had been steadily trying to reactivate its routes, egged on by what it believed to be a genuine effort on the part of the government to return international travel to something approaching normality. Then, Portugal – the only mass tourism destination on the green list — was removed from it, and ministers started muttering that they would really rather we didn’t trying to go on holiday abroad this year at all. The beaches of Cornwall are open to us instead – or at least they are when they are not closed for photo ops for the global elite.
As Theresa May pointed out yesterday, it is bizarre that it has become harder to travel abroad this summer than it was last year – when we still didn’t have an approved vaccine, let alone one that has been injected into the arms of more than three in four adults. Each week seem to bring new miseries for anyone trying to fly off to the sun.
That the government is engaged in a massive act of dishonesty is plain for all to see. For months we were told that international travel would start to reopen on 17 May. The travel industry and its customers were given every impression that it would be safe to book a foreign holiday – leading a great number to shell out deposits. The question is: what game is the government really playing? Is it merely…