Heathrow: End all tests for double-jabbed passengers
Plea for action as airport hit by 71% slump in passengers
The UK’s biggest airport yesterday stepped up calls for double-jabbed travellers to be exempt from all tests.
It comes as figures show passenger numbers at heathrow were down by 71 per cent last month compared to before the pandemic.
And it has now tumbled down the rankings of europe’s busiest airports.
Bosses have now warned that the travel rules must urgently change. heathrow yesterday demanded that double-vaccinated travellers should not have to take any tests before or after travel.
The airport was the busiest in the continent pre-pandemic, with 42,137 inbound and outbound flights carrying 7.7million passengers in August 2019. But figures released yesterday showed passenger numbers were down by 71 per cent last month, with 2.2million passing through.
The number of flights was also just 46 per cent of August 2019 levels (19,452), making it europe’s tenth-busiest airport by traffic.
Meanwhile, neighbouring airports such as Schiphol in Amsterdam and Charles de Gaulle in Paris have seen air traffic bounce back to 72 per cent and 62 per cent of pre-pandemic levels respectively. It makes them the first and third busiest airports in europe. Unlike Britain, neither requires a PCR test for travellers arriving from low-risk countries.
Separate passenger numbers for July shows heathrow went from being europe’s busiest to sixteenth. Just over 1.5million passed through, a fall of 81 per cent on the same month in 2019.
heathrow boss John hollandKaye 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.’
It comes as a survey of travel firms has found seven in ten plan to make redundancies when the furlough scheme ends this month. The study, by ABTA – The Travel Association, also found new forwith eign holiday bookings were down by 83 per cent this summer compared with 2019.
Travel chiefs last night said the data laid bare the devastating effect of the travel traffic light rules. They called for costly postarrival PCR tests and pre-return swabs to be scrapped for the double-jabbed to bring Britain in line much of europe. Ministers will meet this week to discuss scrapping post-arrival PCR tests for the fully vaccinated.
An announcement could come before the end of the week, with any changes coming into effect from next month.
Mark Tanzer, of ABTA – The Travel Association, said: ‘The Government needs to wake up to the damage its policies are doing to the UK travel industry and the impact they will have on the wider economic recovery.
‘There is no logical explanation as to why people who are fully vaccinated should be taking expensive PCR tests – or any test at all – when returning from lower risk countries.’
he also called for an extension to the furlough scheme for the industry, especially if testing requirements for the double-jabbed are not axed. Latest figures from the
Office for National Statistics shows that around 51 per cent of air passenger transport employees are still on furlough.
It comes as ministers will also discuss whether to scrap the travel traffic light system.
Under a proposed model, only the red list would remain with travel rules to all other countries based on an individual’s vaccination status rather than Covid rates in each country.
Currently, fully vaccinated travellers must take a PCR test by day two when arriving in the UK from green and amber countries. They must also take a pre-return swab within 72 hours of returning to Britain. It can add hundreds of pounds to the cost of family holidays. Meanwhile, many european countries have scrapped the need for double-jabbed arrivals to take PCR tests.
‘Fall further behind’
IF the Prime Minister is serious about repairing our shattered economy, he must get Britain flying again. For the aviation industry is the axis around which our future prosperity revolves.
Yet tourism, business travel and international trade have been strangled by the Government’s mulish refusal to ditch swingeing regulations – including the perplexing traffic light system and expensive tests for double-jabbed flyers.
With depressing predictability, these rules have deterred travellers in their millions. The grim repercussion? Heathrow, for so long Europe’s busiest airport, is now tenth. As our competitors recover, our aviation industry is bleeding jobs and business.
Beyond tearing up onerous requirements, Mr Johnson must grasp the nettle and forge a deal with Joe Biden to fully reopen the lucrative air corridor across the Atlantic.
An island trading nation with a global outlook, Britain can only flourish by keeping its skies open. Not by languishing in an isolation of our own creation.