International 19/10/2021

EasyJet vetoes passengers arbitrarily following covid rules

A Catalan couple, forced to delay their return from London by a day because of the company's practices

4 min
An Easjet aircraft at Menorca Airport

LondonThe impunity of airlines continues to be one of the EU legislation's weak points. When to this endemic situation you add the casuistry caused by covid and, on top of that, by Brexit, the result is a sum of nonsense and arbitrariness that ends up costing passengers money and time. And when it comes to complaining, if they decide to do so, even if only by principle, passengers are powerless, as are public consumer protection agencies.

This story begins at the boarding gate of the flight EZY2267 London/Luton - Barcelona on 10 October at 5.50 pm. Sònia and Albert, a couple living in Barcelona, are about to board after a short stay in London. But the person checking their ID, boarding passes and now their covid passport tells them they can't fly. "What do you mean? You're joking, right?" "No. I'm sorry. You can't fly unless you have a negative antigen test."

Is there any explanation for the door being slammed literally in their faces? Did they really need what they were being asked for?

Uncoordinated

The ultimate reason for the mess is the manifest impossibility for the European Union (EU) to coordinate with Brexit UK in this and all areas and the fact that health policy to combat a global pandemic has been carried out at a national level. Thus, the UK does not recognise the EU covid pass as valid for people who after getting covid only received one dose, if the full vaccine vaccine schedule requires two jabs, as is the case with AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer. This does not apply to the Janssen vaccine.

The Spanish Interterritorial Health Council indicates that only one vaccine is needed for the schedule to be considered complete in the case of having natural antibodies due to having passed the disease. The Council itself recommends administering it six months after overcoming the infection. This was the case of Sònia and Albert. They were injected with Moderna. Their covid passport includes, therefore, the data 1/1. Many European countries also do the same. But not the United Kingdom, which is neither in the EU nor has similar health policies. The data shows as much: this Monday it has reached 49,156 cases, has a cumulative incidence of 423 per 100,000 inhabitants, the highest mortality rate on the continent and also the highest absolute figures: 161,798 deaths.

The UK government's small print explains what is meant by full vaccination: "It means that you have had a full course of an approved vaccine [Pfizer, Moderna, AstraZeneca or Janssen] for at least 14 days before you arrived in England. The day you received the final dose does not count as one of the 14 days". And in another web document, it adds: "If you were immunised with a two-dose vaccine (Moderna, Pfizer/BioNTech, Oxford/AstraZeneca or a combination of these), you must have received both doses to be considered fully vaccinated for travel to the UK. This applies in all cases, even if you have recently recovered from covid-19 and have natural immunity". Sònia and Albert received Moderna. Spain considers them fully vaccinated. The UK does not. And when they arrived, they had to go into isolation. A discrimination?

The third reason

There is still a third reason, perhaps the most relevant, why the couple could not fly back to Barcelona. At the EasyJet checkpoint they were asked to take an antigen test before boarding the plane precisely because they did not have, according to British criteria, the full guideline. "It was of no use that we explained that we were returning to Barcelona, and that the Spanish government recognised us as fully vaccinated," Sònia recalls. The couple – and six other people, in this case because they didn't have the QR document for the Covid passport to hand – were taken to the terminal. And there began another ordeal.

"I can get you another ticket for later if you have the antigen tests," they were told. So they paid 40 euros each to have the emergency test done at the airport in the hope that they would be put on the next flight. But when they did have the negative test, all the seats had been taken. They looked for other flights and ended up on a Ryanair flight for the next day, in this case from Stansted, 40 miles away from Luton. "Transfer, test and tickets, €500 more or less."

At the Ryanair boarding gate at Stansted they confirm that they do not have to present any antigen test because they are flying to Spain and Spain recognises them as fully vaccinated. The same as the two of them argued. Ryanair tells them that they have encountered similar cases. ARA officially asked EasyJet what their policy is and whether they have prevented more people from flying for the reasons given. Answer came there none.

What is the EU doing?

Sònia still has other questions. "What do we have to do to be able to return calmly to the United Kingdom or to leave the European Union if we had covid and have only been given one dose?" The Department of Health assures ARA that "the second dose can be administered to people who have to enter the United Kingdom or any other country that requires this second dose, especially if they have to do it for work reasons".

Although Sònia has complained to EasyJet, the response has been vague. The same is true of the European Union, or state governments, which are unable to force the United Kingdom understand that sometimes you don't have to have been vaccinated with Janssen for a single dose combined with natural antibodies to give full protection. Once again, airline impunity, covid and Brexit form an expensive cocktail.

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