The Daily Telegraph

Britain grounded


The good news from Heathrow Airport is that passenger numbers are on the rise, with an increase in August of more than 50 per cent on the same period last year. The bad news is that this is 70 per cent down on pre-pandemic levels and the traffic through what was once Europe’s largest airline hub remains well below that of its competitor­s.

Heathrow is now only the 10th busiest airport in Europe. Frankfurt, Schiphol in Amsterdam and Paris are among those that have stolen a march, and business, from London’s premier airport. The UK, despite early setbacks, has not experience­d any worse effects from the pandemic than France, Spain or even Germany once like-for-like statistics are taken into account.

One thing that Britain did do was to roll out the vaccine faster than elsewhere and yet many EU countries are now on a par, or even ahead, in administer­ing the jab. Moreover, they have also opened up more readily, with fewer travel restrictio­ns and greater ease of movement.

The aviation industry and travel companies blame the traffic light approach adopted in the UK. They say that “ever-changing restrictio­ns”, expensive and unnecessar­y testing requiremen­ts and the lack of a common approach across borders have hampered the recovery.

This is handing an advantage to competitor­s when the UK was supposedly, post-brexit, opening to the world. We understand there is a pandemic but how are other countries managing travel much better? Changes to the rules are expected this week, with the “traffic light” system likely to be streamline­d. For the hard-pressed aviation industry they cannot come soon enough.

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