Heathrow trails European rivals as Covid restrictions hamper recovery

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London Heathrow Airport has reported a 71% decrease in passenger numbers for August versus the same month pre-pandemic as combining factors continue to hinder the sector’s recovery.

The airport said that ever-changing restrictions, expensive and unnecessary testing requirements and lack of a common approach across borders have all merged to stunt the airport’s progress.

John Holland-Kaye, CEO, London Heathrow, 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 as trade and tourists will increasingly bypass the UK.”

According to Eurocontrol figures from Aug 26 to Sept 1, Heathrow has fallen from being the busiest in Europe in 2019 to now sitting in 10th place as rivals including Schiphol, Paris and Frankfurt have all recovered at a faster pace.

The government’s Global Travel Taskforce is set to review the UK’s travel regime in the coming weeks, and Heathrow urges ministers to streamline the system to enable travel levels and economic activity to help safely recover to pre-pandemic levels.

Heathrow’s proposals are for the government to remove the amber list and create a safe but simple two-tier system – a green list and red list, retaining hotel quarantine. Fully vaccinated travelers would 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.

The airport also said that the government’s Border Force agency must have adequate resources and processes in place to ensure travelers receive a warm welcome into the UK. It said that recent scenes of passengers waiting for hours to be processed through the UK border were totally unacceptable.

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Dan originally joined Passenger Terminal World in 2014 having spent the early years of his career in the recruitment industry. As online editor, he now produces daily content for the website and supports the editor with the publication of each exciting new issue. When he’s not reporting on the latest aviation news, Dan can be found on the golf course or apprehensively planning his next DIY project.

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