Manchester Airports Group calls for the UK to reform over-cautious traffic light system

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Manchester Airports Group (MAG) is calling on the government to create a simplified travel system as figures reveal that aviation continues to be the worst hit sector in the UK.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) from June showed that aviation remains the worst hit UK sector, with activity still more than 90% down on pre-pandemic levels, compared with the food and entertainment sectors which have seen a steady increase in business over recent months. MAG itself reported that its passenger numbers for August were 68% down on the same month in 2019. This is despite more than 80% of the adult population being double-vaccinated.

In response, MAG proposes that the best way to protect the travel sector through the winter season and restore consumer confidence for bookings next summer is to reform the UK’s traffic light system ahead of the scheduled  October 1 review date.

Charlie Cornish, CEO, MAG, said, “The UK’s over-cautious and unnecessarily complex traffic light system is confusing to customers and places needless barriers in the way of them booking travel.

“The impact that [it]is having on our sector is clear, with traffic levels recovering at a much greater rate across Europe than here in the UK.”

Introducing a two-tier system to the UK would see most international markets open for travel as the default, with only those countries which pose a significant public health risk from new variants subject to travel restrictions such as testing and a period of quarantine.

Along with a simplified system, MAG has also called for the removal of mandatory testing for fully vaccinated arrivals from countries without new Covid-19 variants.

In the past, the government justified the need for these tests as a way of monitoring variants among inbound passengers. However, the latest government-published data shows that fewer than 30% of positive test results are sequenced to identify variants.

Accordingly MAG’s proposal asserts that ending mandatory PCR testing for fully vaccinated passengers would remove a costly and unnecessary barrier to travel and bring the UK’s travel policy back in line with Europe.

The airport group is hopeful that these combined changes will allow for the fuller and more sustainable recovery that UK aviation requires as it closes the door on two lost summer periods.

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