“No logical reason”: British airports urge COVID travel testing shake-up

Heathrow Airport Ltd

Some of Britain’s biggest airports have called on the UK government to simplify travel rules, ahead of a review by Britain into its travel restrictions. 

Britain’s airports have repeatedly called for travel testing requirements to be eased, highlighting how their passenger traffic numbers are recovering more slowly than European rivals. 

London Heathrow (LHR) said on September 13, 2021, that its August passenger numbers were still 71% down on pre-pandemic levels. 

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,” the airport company commented.  “These EU competitors also reached pre-pandemic cargo volumes at the end of 2020, while cargo at the UK’s biggest port is still down 14%, compared to August 2019.”

Manchester Airports Group, which operates London Stansted (STN), Manchester and East Midlands airports, said passenger numbers were down 68% in August 2021. London Stansted served 2.18 million passengers in August, just over a quarter of its pre-crisis passengers.

Both Heathrow and MAG called for a simpler two-tier system, removing testing requirements for those who have been fully vaccinated and who are traveling from safer countries. The government is due to review its travel rules on October 1, 2021. 

“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,” Heathrow proposed.

MAG highlighted that other sectors in the UK have been opened up for those who have been vaccinated, whereas aviation remains the worst hit sector of the economy.

“With restrictions almost entirely removed across the UK, now is the time to give people back those freedoms to explore, relax and visit loved ones,” MAG CEO Charlie Cornish said. 

He also highlighted how traffic levels in Europe were recovering much faster than in the UK. 

“Meanwhile, the rest of the economy has been opened-up to those who are double-jabbed, leaving travel as the only sector whose recovery is being held back for no logical reason,” Cornish said.

On September 6, 2021, London Gatwick also called for the testing regime to be dropped for fully vaccinated travelers arriving from low-risk countries.


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