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Willie Walsh hopes Boris Johnson will 'clarify the science' behind airline passenger quarantine plans

The International Airlines Group boss was giving evidence to the UK’s Transport Select Committee.

Image: PA

WILLIE WALSH, CHIEF executive of International Airlines Group (IAG), which owns Aer Lingus, heard “nothing positive in anything” that Boris Johnson had to say during the UK prime minister’s address to the nation yesterday.

Speaking to House of Commons Transport Select Committee this morning, Dubliner Walsh took aim at the British government’s plan to introduce a 14-day quarantine for anyone arriving in the UK from any country apart from Ireland.

Walsh said that he hoped the PM could “clarify the science” behind the strategy.

The measure was announced during the prime minister’s speech yesterday. Johnson said that he was “serving notice” of his intention to “impose quarantine on people coming into this country by air”.

Reacting to the announcement this morning, Walsh said, “The introduction of a 14-day quarantine period for air travel is a surprise because it appears that the Government is not going to apply a quarantine period for people who come into the UK by other means of transport.”

“I don’t understand that but maybe the prime minister will be able to clarify the science behind that. It seems strange to me.”

Walsh said that if the quarantine period is imposed, “I would imagine that our capacity into and out of the UK would be pretty minimal”.

Asked by the committee about plans to cut 12,000 jobs at IAG subsidiary British Airways, Walsh said the company is “not picking on” the UK carrier.

Last week, Irish trade unions representing Aer Lingus workers were notified of planned cuts that could lead to job losses, although the company has not yet provided detailed redundancy figures.

Walsh said this morning that IAG is “embarking on a restructuring and I’ve made it clear that this is group-wide restructuring. It’s not specific to British Airways. It’s group-wide restructuring in the face of the greatest crisis that the airline industry and the airlines within IAG have faced.

 “The labour legislation in Ireland and Spain – the two other major countries in which we operate – it’s different. We’re required to do it in a different way.”

Walsh, who confirmed last week that he is delaying his planned retirement in order to guide IAG through the Covid-19 crisis, said he hoped to see other airlines come through the pandemic.

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“I firmly believe that not all of them will, because many of them were poorly run and quite honestly weren’t viable in good times.

“I can’t see how they would be viable with the changing environment we’re all facing.”

IAG recently announced a pre-tax operating loss of €535 million for the first quarter of the year, due to coronavirus fallout.

Additional reporting by PA

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