UK Relaxes COVID Rules For Some Arriving Travelers

Senior executives can avoid 14-day quarantine if they can prove their visit will likely deliver "significant economic benefit."

Some business travelers, including people working in the entertainment, news, and sports industries, will be exempt from the UK’s 14-day COVID quarantine requirements from 4 a.m. local time on December 5. The relaxation of rules, which was announced by transport secretary Grant Shapp, is potentially good news for business aircraft operators.

The exemption applies to senior executives who are determined to be “bringing significant economic benefit” to the UK through work that “has a greater than 50 percent chance” of creating or preserving at least 50 UK-based jobs to an existing UK business with at least 50 employees or to a new UK business within one year of their arrival. Alternatively, they should be traveling to purchase goods and services from a UK-based business with at least 50 employees, either through a contract worth at least £100 million ($130 million) or one that would create or preserve 50 or more jobs.

The traveler will need to carry a letter signed by a company director from the business they are visiting in the UK. Where a new business is being created, the letter should be signed by a company director from the firm proposing to create and own the new venture. The letter will need to explain the necessity for the senior executive to visit specific locations and the extent to which their presence is likely to result in economic benefit to the country.

Full details of the amended regulations were published on December 4. Travelers will still be required to self-isolate when they are not specifically conducting business during their time in the UK.

Arts Council England, a public body that liaises between the arts and entertainment business and the government, published a lengthy document explaining the protocol for securing an exemption. This explained a complex verification and approval process, ending with a commitment to process applications within 10 working days. It is hard to see how this process would be compatible with short-notice, ad hoc business trips.

The British Business and General Aviation Association (BBGA) welcomed the new exemption arrangements. "We believe this restores confidence for many business travelers looking to do business in the UK and buoys the UK economy as we ready to Brexit," said Sean Raftery, BBGA board member and managing director of Universal Aviation UK. "The BBGA has worked hard educating the government about the value of business aviation, so when amending the quarantine restrictions, they are fully aware of the implications it has had on our sector. Since March we saw the enthusiasm for travel among our clients change.  Back then they weren’t as comfortable about traveling and the 14-day quarantine was prohibitive for business. Now they feel much safer in the knowledge that investments have been made disinfecting our FBOs and aircraft and with COVID testing becoming more widely available at our airports and FBOs."