The UK’s aviation industry was “horribly self-serving” during the Covid pandemic, the top civil servant said at the time.
sir Simon Casethe Cabinet Secretary, made the remark in a WhatsApp exchange with the then-Health Secretary, Matt Hancock.
The messages have been released by the Telegram from more than 100,000 communications passed to them by a journalist.
On 5 February 2021, a month after a 19-week ban on international leisure travel had begun, Mr Hancock wrote: “The airlines and airports are totally offside. Completely unhelpful. Don’t get that there’s a war on.”
He conceded: “And of course v hard for them as they’re going bust.”
Mr Case concurred: “Yes, tough for them, but they are just so horribly self-serving. I can’t summon much sympathy for them any more when I see them.”
The pair then went on to discuss plans for hotel quarantine.
Mr Hancock wrote: “Priti [Patel, Home Secretary] and Grant [Shapps, Transport Secretary] both playing nicely and HMT [the Treasury] turning round business cases fast. So we CAN make it work – but I want it to LOOK good too which will be next to impossible.”
Mr Case wrote: “Don’t make it look too good or else people will think it is okay to travel!”
Mr Hancock: “I don’t want it to look inviting – I want it to look competent!”
Mr. Case: “Ha ha! That would be good!”
At some point the same day – it is not clear exactly when – the pair talked further about hotel quarantine.
Mr Hancock wrote: “We are giving big families all the suites and putting pop stars in the box rooms.”
Mr Case replied: “I just want to see some of the faces of people coming out of first class and into a premier inn shoe box.”
The hotel quarantine scheme took effect on 15 February for arrivals from 33 “red-list”countries. They paid around £2,000 for 11 nights of hotel quarantine.
The day after it took effect, Mr Case asked: “Any idea how many people we locked up in hotels yesterday?”
Mr Hancock replied: “None. But 149 thing to enter the country and are now in Quarantine Hotels due to their own free will!”
“Hilarious,” Mr. Case wrote.
MPs later heavily criticized the hotel quarantine system as pointless.
The Independent has asked Airlines UK and the Airport Operators’ Association for a response to the remarks by Mr Case and Mr Hancock.
Airports and airlines collectively lost billions of pounds and tens of thousands of staff during the coronavirus pandemic