Airlines SHRINK schedules until end of July amid change in Freedom Day

Airlines SHRINK their schedules until the end of July as Boris Johnson plans to move Freedom Day back by a month due to Indian variant

  • EXCLUSIVE: British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and easyJet are all cancelling flights
  • The budget airline started dropping trips to Greece and France in blow for firm
  • Meanwhile Stobart Air this morning has ceased trading due to a lack of demand
  • Last night it emerged Boris Johnson will delay the end of lockdown until July 19
  • It came after doctors urged him to wait until more Brits have been double jabbed

Airlines have started shrinking their schedules until late July as the government plans to push Freedom Day back by a month.

British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and easyJet are cancelling flights until after the new July 19 date as demand plummets.

The budget airline has started dropping trips to Greece and France as Britons face a second summer trapped at home.

Meanwhile Stobart Air, which operates regional services for Aer Lingus, this morning ceased trading due to a lack of demand.

Last night it emerged Boris Johnson will delay the end of lockdown until July 19 after doctors urged him to wait until more people have been double jabbed.

After a sharp rise in the Indian variant, Cabinet sources said Freedom Day on June 21 was ‘not looking great’, with a four-week extension to restrictions ‘most likely’.

But in a bid to appease Tory MPs and ministers who are keen to unleash the economy, the Prime Minister is expected to promise a review after a fortnight.

This could allow curbs to be ditched earlier this year if hospital admissions remain low. 

British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and easyJet are cancelling flights until after the new July 19 date as demand plummets (file photo)

The budget airline has started dropping trips to Greece (file photo) and France as Britons face a second summer trapped at home

Last night it emerged Boris Johnson (pictured yesterday) will delay the end of lockdown until July 19 after doctors urged him to wait until more people have been double jabbed

Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy The PC Agency said airlines were shrinking their schedule because demand is plummeting.

He told MailOnline: ‘Airlines are reducing their flying schedules fast as government policies on overseas travel are putting off consumers from flying.

‘There simply isn’t enough demand to fly when so many countries are on amber and swab testing is so expensive.

‘So we’re now seeing airlines cutting their flying and staffing costs rapidly, as they ground more aircraft and return thousands of cabin crew and other staff to furlough.

‘The government is strangling the aviation sector even though the majority of adults in the UK have received both vaccine doses and should be given the freedom to fly.’

He added: ‘Why are we in a worse position than last summer when we had no vaccines?

‘The government should follow America’s and Europe’s lead and enable fully-jabbed citizens to fly more flexibly.’

Children SHOULD be vaccinated against Covid says Professor Peter Openshaw who advises ministers on the pandemic 

A Government adviser has urged ministers to consider vaccinating school-aged children to protect them from coronavirus.

Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of the New and Emerging Respiratory Virus Threats Advisory Group (NERVTAG), revealed ‘on balance’ he has come to the view children need to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

Experts are still divided on whether Britain should begin vaccinating children this summer, with some insisting it would help deal with the Indian variant but critics suggesting supplies should be used to squash the pandemic abroad first. 

But Professor Openshaw said because children are now spreading the Delta variant, first discovered in India, in schools the case for vaccination is stronger.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘A lot of people are sitting on the fence about this but I think on balance I’m coming to the view that vaccination of children – there’s a very strong argument there.’

He said the vaccine was safe for children, while prolonged symptoms of coronavirus meant one in ten sufferers have not fully recovered.   

He added: ‘Originally with the Wuhan strain it didn’t seem there was very much amplification of the epidemic going on amongst people who were at school in contrast to what we know about influenza, where schools are often the major driver of spread. 

‘But with these more transmissible variants it is evident that they are being transmitted much more amongst young adults and school children and even younger children and that seems perhaps to be a change in the biological quality of the infection. 

‘It’s still fortunately not causing very high disease rates amongst those kids but it does strengthen the argument against vaccination.’

British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and easyJet have been approached for comment.

Meanwhile Aer Lingus announced a number of regional flights have been cancelled after operator Stobart Air ended its contract with the Irish airline.

The announcement affects several flights from Dublin and Belfast City airports to UK cities.

An Aer Lingus statement said: ‘Late on the evening of June 11, Stobart Air notified Aer Lingus that it was terminating its franchise agreement with Aer Lingus with immediate effect.

‘As a result, all Aer Lingus regional flights operated by Stobart Air are cancelled.

‘Stobart Air referred to the continuing impact of the pandemic which has resulted in almost no flying since March 2020.

‘Stobart Air has ceased trading and is now in the process of appointing a liquidator.

‘Aer Lingus apologises to customers for the inconvenience caused by the cancellation at such short notice of all flights operated by Stobart Air.

‘Aer Lingus is now communicating to customers to advise them of their options for refund or rebooking.’

Customers who have booked flights are advised not go to the airport and to check the Aer Lingus website.

The announcement affects flights from Dublin to Kerry, Donegal, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Newquay.

Flights from Belfast City Airport to Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds Bradford, Exeter and East Midlands have also been cancelled.

A spokesman for Belfast City Airport said: ‘We were informed by Aer Lingus this morning that Stobart Air, who operated the Aer Lingus regional franchise, has ceased operations.

‘The Aer Lingus Heathrow service is not affected and is still operating.

‘We apologise to our passengers for this inconvenience and are working with Aer Lingus to ensure these routes are operating again as soon as possible.’

A spokesman for Stobart Air said: ‘It is with great regret and sadness that Stobart Air can confirm that the board is in the process of appointing a liquidator to the business and the airline is to cease operations with immediate effect.

‘Stobart Air apologises to all its customers for the inconvenience caused at short notice. All 480 staff at the airline have been informed.

‘Last April, Stobart Air announced that a new owner had been identified. However, it has emerged that the funding to support this transaction is no longer in place and the new owner is now unable to conclude the transaction.

‘Given the continued impact of the pandemic which has virtually halted air travel… and in the absence of any alternative purchasers or sources of funding, the board of Stobart Air must take the necessary, unavoidable and difficult decision to seek to appoint a liquidator.’

Aer Lingus announced a number of regional flights have been cancelled after operator Stobart Air ended its contract with the Irish airline

The announcement affects several flights from Dublin and Belfast City airports to UK cities

Aer Lingus has announced that a number of regional flights have been cancelled after operator Stobart Air ended its contract with the Irish airline.

The announcement affects several flights from Dublin and Belfast City airports to UK cities. An Aer Lingus statement said: ‘Late on the evening of June 11, Stobart Air notified Aer Lingus that it was terminating its franchise agreement with Aer Lingus with immediate effect.

‘As a result, all Aer Lingus regional flights operated by Stobart Air are cancelled. Stobart Air referred to the continuing impact of the pandemic which has resulted in almost no flying since March 2020.

‘Stobart Air has ceased trading and is now in the process of appointing a liquidator. Aer Lingus apologises to customers for the inconvenience caused by the cancellation at such short notice of all flights operated by Stobart Air.

‘Aer Lingus is now communicating to customers to advise them of their options for refund or rebooking.’

Customers who have booked flights are advised not go to the airport and to check the Aer Lingus website.

The announcement affects flights from Dublin to Kerry, Donegal, Glasgow, Edinburgh and Newquay.

Flights from Belfast City Airport to Manchester, Birmingham, Edinburgh, Leeds Bradford, Exeter and East Midlands have also been cancelled.

A spokesperson for Belfast City Airport said: ‘We were informed by Aer Lingus this morning that Stobart Air, who operated the Aer Lingus regional franchise, has ceased operations.

‘The Aer Lingus Heathrow service is not affected and is still operating.

‘We apologise to our passengers for this inconvenience and are working with Aer Lingus to ensure these routes are operating again as soon as possible.’ A spokesperson for Stobart Air said: ‘It is with great regret and sadness that Stobart Air can confirm that the board is in the process of appointing a liquidator to the business and the airline is to cease operations with immediate effect.

‘Stobart Air apologises to all its customers for the inconvenience caused at short notice. All 480 staff at the airline have been informed.’

Under the PM’s Covid roadmap, June 21 was supposed to be the day when all social distancing curbs were lifted and the work-from-home advice abandoned.

Mr Johnson will make a final decision tomorrow night, before making an announcement to the nation on Monday evening.

But officials told the Mail last night that the debate in Downing Street was now concentrated on whether to ‘pause’ the reopening by two weeks or four.

In a significant intervention, the British Medical Association called on Mr Johnson to hold off until more people had received both doses of the vaccine.

Its council chairman Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the figures showed more time was needed to get the vaccine to more people.

‘With only 54.2 per cent of the adult population currently fully vaccinated and many younger people not yet eligible, there is a huge risk that prematurely relaxing all restrictions will undo the excellent work of the vaccine programme and lead to a surge of infections,’ he said.

Weddings could still get an exemption, with the 30-person cap on guests lifted on June 21 to allow the big weddings that many couples have booked to go ahead.

However, the delay to lifting the remainder of the curbs – which ban nightclubs opening, limit crowds at theatres and sporting events, restrict capacity indoors at pubs and restaurants and prevent people meeting in large groups – is likely to enrage many MPs, hospitality leaders and business chiefs.

The Mail revealed Mr Sunak told Mr Johnson he could live with a delay of ‘a week or two’ but would resist any further slippage as this could involve extending furlough.

Last night, nightclubs and bars threatened to sue the Government if the planned lifting of restrictions was postponed.

Andrew Lloyd Webber has already warned that he could take ministers to court if they do not allow theatres to operate at full capacity as planned.

And yesterday furious Tory MPs warned they will use every mechanism at their disposal to resist the delay of Freedom Day.

Julian Sturdy, the Conservative MP for York Outer, said: ‘Despite what lockdown supporters claim, it is simply not just a few extra weeks.

‘People’s livelihoods, mental health and our long-term freedoms are at permanent risk.’

The move towards delaying June 21 came after the number of cases of the Indian variant – also known as the Delta variant – increased by 240 per cent in a week.

Public Health England said the infections had risen from 12,431 to 42,323 in the latest seven-day period, an increase of 29,892 cases.

England’s coronavirus R rate is higher than at any time since October at a minimum of 1.2 and possible high of 1.4, SAGE estimated yesterday

Public Health England data show how it took just a matter of weeks for the Indian ‘Delta’ variant to smash past the Kent strain and take over as dominant in England, with it surging to make up 96 per cent of cases in just nine weeks

The Office for National Statistics’ weekly infection survey suggested England’s outbreak grew by only 13 per cent last week to 96,800 total cases – compared to a near-doubling 75 per cent surge the week before

The majority of cases appeared to be among the unvaccinated. The R-rate of reproduction also increased yesterday to between 1.2 and 1.4.

In a further sign that a delay is likely, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi yesterday stressed the importance of being ‘really careful’ in lifting coronavirus restrictions and urged against ‘squander(ing) those hard-fought gains’ made by the vaccination programme.

At the G7 summit in Cornwall yesterday, Mr Johnson told fellow world leaders that it was important not to ‘repeat some of the errors that we doubtless made in the course of the last 18 months’.

The PM has been criticised for not locking down sooner last year.

Kate Nicholls, the boss of UK Hospitality, said last night: ‘Any delay in the roadmap would have a devastating effect on an already fragile hospitality sector.

‘A one-month delay would cost the sector £3billion in sales and push many businesses even closer to the cliff edge of failure, meaning more job losses.’

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