Airports must roll out tests, says Heathrow boss after record loss
HEATHROW has sunk to a record halfyear loss after the pandemic sent passenger numbers plunging at Britain’s biggest airport.
The firm reported a £1.1bn pre-tax loss for the six months to June after passenger numbers tumbled 96pc in the second quarter as aviation ground to an almost total halt.
The dire figures prompted chief executive John Holland-Kaye to push for a virus testing regime at airports that could cut the time of the 14-day quarantine and lift demand for air travel.
He said: “Today’s results should serve as a clarion call for the Government – the UK needs a passenger test- ing regime and fast. Without it, Britain is just playing a game of quarantine roulette.”
Mr Holland-Kaye drew comparisons with European countries that are already conducting Covid-19 tests at airports, which he said could be rolled out in the UK within two weeks.
He said: “Our European competitors are racing ahead with passenger testing – if the UK doesn’t act soon global Britain will be nothing more than a campaign slogan.”
The transport boss suggested that arrivals to the UK could be tested at an airport, and then get a second test at a health facility five to eight days later to reduce the time spent in quarantine.
Already reeling from a virus-induced slump in demand, airlines have warned that the two-week period of self-isolation for arrivals from Spain introduced over the weekend will further hammer the beleaguered industry.
Last month, Mr Holland-Kaye warned the new restrictions could lead to as many as 25,000 Heathrow workers losing their jobs, making Heathrow airport the leading firm in the UK for announced job cuts.
Heathrow also said the opening of its contentious third runway will be delayed by at least two years due to the Covid crisis and an appeals process.
Construction was expected to complete between 2028 and 2029, but the project was already facing delays after the Court of Appeal ruled in February that the Government’s decision to let it go ahead was unlawful on environmental grounds.
Meanwhile the boss of Wizz Air warned travel quarantines will leave airlines riding a “rollercoaster” over the summer as markets are opened and closed in response to the pandemic.
Speaking as Wizz posted a €107m (£97m) pre-tax loss for the three months to June, compared with a €76m profit last year, József Váradi added his voice to criticism of the Government’s reintroduction of quarantine for arrivals from Spain.
“I don’t think quarantine is a good idea under any circumstances,” he said.