LONDON: A group of airlines accused the UK government yesterday of a "haphazard and disproportionate approach" to travel restrictions in the wake of the Omicron variant and demanded further state help to prevent a "permanent scarring" of the industry. "Whilst we fully recognize the need to take steps to contain the initial impact of the Omicron variant, travel has been singled out with the introduction of disproportionate restrictions," Airlines UK-which includes British Airways and Virgin Atlantic, as well as Irish carrier Ryanair-said in a joint letter.

"A package of bespoke economic support measures should be provided immediately to bridge the sector through this crisis." Britain last week rolled out new travel curbs to try and prevent transmission of the Omicron variant.

On Sunday, Prime Minister Johnson warned of a looming "tidal wave" of Omicron, and brought forward a target to give over-18s a booster jab by one month to the end of December. The airlines demanded an urgent meeting with Johnson to discuss the situation facing the sector and called for emergency testing for fully-vaccinated passengers to be removed before Christmas.

"Pre-departure and upon-arrival testing clearly add very little value to our COVID protection, but unnecessarily disrupt Christmas for families as well as businesses, while severely damaging the UK travel industry," the letter said. -AFP