***Update: 07/13/020 @ 16:55UTC – American Airlines shared a statement on the incident; details below***
An American Airlines sales executive took to LinkedIn this week to post an update of his recent trip to London Heathrow’s Terminal 5. While this may not sound extraordinary, the executive drew attention to the fact that he was only in the UK for 24 hours, and during this time, he does not appear to have self-isolated. Currently, the UK requires anyone arriving from the US to isolate for 14 days.
A ceremony and dinner
The executive’s post was also remarkable because he shows a clear awareness of the quarantine rules. In his post, he wrote,
“I will write in a post on Monday as to why Americans don’t necessarily need to spend 14 days in quarantine on arrival in the UK”.
The post, which was uncovered by One Mile at a Time, confirms that the executive attended “the official ribbon cutting to mark American Airlines move to Terminal 5 at London Heathrow.”
Unless he, and everyone else at the ceremony, was wearing full protective gear, then the new arrival to the UK was not self-isolating as per UK regulations. The post continues to thank someone in the UK for “hosting and for my first business dinner in a while.”
He then mentions a British Airways employee who had “a great catch-up” with the executive. It seems unlikely the dinner and catch-up involved facemasks, gloves, and a full protective bodysuit in an isolated environment.
Current UK regulations
Although the executive seems sure that he was able to enter the country and attend events legally, the current UK rules suggest otherwise. Almost everyone arriving in the UK from the US is required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival. There are very few exceptions, and the exceptions themselves are precise.
Unless the executive also carried essential work on a UK water system, worked for Network Rail, was a part of an aircraft’s crew, working as an engineer, a nuclear scientist, or was on a diplomatic mission, he may not have been as legal as he implied. Even some of the exceptions to rule have to prove that their work must be carried out immediately. Non-essential workers in these sectors still have to wait 14 days.
In response to a request for a comment, an American Airlines spokesperson said,
“Complying with the required health and safety measures and entry requirements of the countries in which we operate is a priority for American, and our team member thought they were in compliance. We apologize on this occasion that we misjudged what was allowed under the recent UK exemption guidelines. We take the intent of these regulations seriously and we have taken immediate corrective action to ensure we fully comply in the future.”
There are some potential loopholes he may have used to avoid isolating. The UK is allowing people to arrive on UK soil but to remain airside. This means the executive did not truly enter the UK as he did not pass border control and stayed at the airport. Usually, this applies to connecting flights rather than a return flight. However, the UK does allow this if a form is completed in advance.
Another potential loophole is if he spent the past 14 days in Europe. The UK dropped quarantine restrictions against most European countries at the start of July. If the executive was in France or Italy before his visit, then technically, it was legal.
No doubt the executive will have a good explanation for his flying visit on Monday. Until then, we are left to speculate as to what his reasons are for avoiding the rules. Even if the executive does have a legitimate loophole, it will still anger many. The quarantine restrictions are there for a reason. To make use of a loophole to welcome American Airlines to a new terminal seems trivial when potentially endangering others. Whatever happens on Monday, it seems bizarre to mention the restrictions online and not explain the situation the same day.