Heathrow Airport has its travel numbers are in, with the airport traffic is down 71% compared to pre-pandemic numbers in August.
The airport puts this down to the ever-changing restrictions, expensive and unnecessary testing requirements and lack of a common approach across borders, as well as citing that the actions of the Government hindering the UK’s economic recovery.
From being the busiest airport in Europe in 2019, Heathrow is now 10th as rivals including Schiphol, Paris and Frankfurt are all recovering at a much quicker pace. EU competitors also recovered back to 2019 cargo volumes at the end of 2020, whereas cargo at the UK’s biggest port is still down 14%.
Heathrow notes that the current system used by the UK Government (The Red/Amber/Green lists) is an outlier, where most countries have shifted to a two-tier system.
With the Government’s Global Travel Taskforce is set to review the UK’s travel regime in the coming weeks,
Heathrow (and no doubt other airports) are urging Government Ministers to streamline the system to get travel levels and the economic activity safely back to pre-pandemic levels.
A proposal to those in Westminister
They propose the following
Heathrow’s proposals, supported by major airlines and the wider travel and tourism industry, are for the Government to remove the amber list and create a safe but simple two-tier system – a green list and red list, retaining hotel quarantine.
Ministers must recognise the success of the global vaccination programme and move from a country-based approach to a risk-based one, based on individuals’ vaccination status. Fully vaccinated travellers should not be required to take a test, while those who are not vaccinated should continue to take a pre-departure and arrival test using lateral flow, following up with a PCR test if positive.
As passenger numbers grow, Border Force must ensure they have adequate resources and processes in place to ensure travellers receive a warm welcome into the UK. Recent scenes of passengers waiting for hours to be processed through the UK border are totally unacceptable. Border Force can and should deliver both a secure UK border and an efficient service for passengers.
Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye said:
“The Government has the tools to protect the UK’s international competitiveness which will boost the economic recovery and achieve its Global Britain ambitions. If Ministers fail to take this opportunity to streamline the travel rules then the UK will fall further behind as trade and tourists will increasingly by-pass the UK”
A little bit of government willpower required
With the noises from the government wanting to drop PCR testing, as well as the dropping of some Coronavirus laws that were enacted, there may be the willpower to use the tools the government has to enable tourism to return at higher levels (and without stupid amounts of testing).
With the industry hurting – no thanks to the various restrictions in place, additional testing requirements and borders still closed in some cases – they will need a shot in the arm to get through winter (and that’s not even taking into account the furlough programmes ending soon).
The big question is, will ministers have the guts to go through with a change like this?
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