British Airways, EasyJet and Ryanair have started legal proceedings against the UK government over the introduction of a mandatory 14-day quarantine measure for travellers arriving in the country from 8 June.

The three carriers sent a pre-action protocol letter to the government on 5 June, describing the measure as “disproportionate and unfair on British citizens as well as international visitors arriving in the UK”.

Under the new rules, all arriving passengers – bar those covered by a short list of exemptions – will be required to self-isolate for 14 days. Failure to comply will be “punishable with a £1,000 [$1,270] fixed-penalty notice in England or potential prosecution and unlimited fine”, says the UK Home Office.

It is unclear how the measure will be enforced in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales, a point raised by the three airlines.

“We challenge the UK government on a number of defective measures,” say British Airways, EasyJet and Ryanair in a joint statement. These include “the fact that this quarantine is more stringent than the guidelines applied to people who actually have Covid-19”, the airlines note, and that “if you live in Scotland, to date, the rules won’t apply”.

The joint statement also notes that commuters to the UK from European Union member states such as France and Germany “will be exempted”, and questions the logic of “banning people from countries with lower R rates [the rate at which the virus spreads] than the UK”.

Calling for abandonment of the quarantine measure, the airlines argue it would “have a devastating effect on UK’s tourism industry and will destroy (even more) thousands of jobs in this unprecedented crisis”.

The government plans to review the measure by 29 Jun