Heathrow: transatlantic travel shutdown costs UK £23m a day

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On July 12, 2021, London Heathrow London (LHR) urged ministers to reopen transatlantic travel, warning that the shutdown of transatlantic air travel is costing the UK economy £23 million ($32 million) a day. 

London Heathrow Airport passenger traffic numbers are still 90% down compared to pre-pandemic numbers in 2019, and much lower than European rivals. Seeing growth in European passenger traffic, Heathrow fears that Britain’s competitive advantage stands at risk if broders remain closed. 

Passenger traffic from Heathrow to the United States is down by around 80%, whereas the EU, which has reopened unilaterally with the US, has seen traffic gradually recover, now only 40% down compared to pre-COVID numbers. As for cargo volumes, both Frankfurt Airport (FRA) and Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) have grown by 9% and 14% respectively compared to 2019, whereas Heathrow is still down at 16%. 

“Getting Britain trading again with the rest of the world is critical to the Government’s plans for a Global Britain post-Brexit,” read Heathrow’s statement. 

“While it’s fantastic news that some double-vaccinated passengers will no longer need to quarantine from amber countries, Ministers need to extend this policy to US and EU nationals if they want to kickstart the economic recovery,” Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kayle said. “These changes will be critical for exporters who are losing out to EU rivals and families who have been separated from loved ones.”

UK airlines and airports urge government to reopen transatlantic service

The transatlantic market is the backbone for long-haul operators in the United Kingdom, as it is one of the most lucrative parts of the air travel market, attracting business travellers willing to pay for premium seats. However, the aviation industry has been unsuccessfully pushing the transatlantic reopening for more than a year.

Earlier in June 2021, ahead of the G7 Summit, UK airlines and airports chiefs wrote a joint statement for the US president Joe Biden and the UK prime minister Boris Johnson seeking swiffer action to ease the travel restrictions for the transatlantic service.

“Connectivity between the UK and the US is one of the great engines of the global economy. The scientific data shows transatlantic travel and trade can be reopened safely and every day that policymakers delay puts jobs, livelihoods and the economic chances of hardworking folks across our countries at risk unnecessarily. We cannot continue to keep locked-up indefinitely. Politicians should seize on the successful vaccination programmes in our two countries to begin looking to a future where we manage COVID rather than letting it manage us,” Holland-Kayle said in the open letter.

In a response after their meeting at the G7 Summit on June 10, 2021, Joe Biden and Boris Johnson said they were committed to resume travel between the UK and US as soon as possible by launching a joint task force to explore options for reinstating flights. 

To this day, the timeline of transatlantic route reopening between the US and UK has not been set.


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