Upcoming travel review to outline the UK’s air travel regime
The UK government is set to re-evaluate the UK’s travel regime, as London Heathrow Airport’s passenger volumes remain below pre-COVID-19 numbers due to changing restrictions and testing requirements.
Credit: London Heathrow Airport
London Heathrow Airport’s (LHR) passenger numbers remain 71 per cent down in August 2021, versus the same month pre-COVID-19 pandemic as the ever-changing restrictions, expensive and unnecessary testing requirements, and lack of a common approach across borders continue to hinder the UK’s economic recovery.
The airport has fallen from the busiest airport in EU in 2019 to10th, as rivals including Amsterdam Schiphol, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Frankfurt are all recovering at a much quicker pace. These EU competitors also reached pre-COVID-19 pandemic cargo volumes at the end of 2020, while cargo at the UK’s biggest port is still down 14 per cent, compared to August 2019. The current traffic light system is an outlier and is delaying the government’s global Britain ambitions, handing rivals a competitive advantage while the UK loses market share.
The government’s Global Travel Taskforce is set to review the UK’s travel regime in the coming weeks (September 2021), as it urges Ministers to streamline the system to get travel levels and the economic activity safely back to pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels, otherwise the UK will continue to lose trade and face lower levels of foreign tourism, impacting jobs and slowing the UK’s economic recovery.
Furthermore, Heathrow’s proposals, supported by major airlines and the wider travel and tourism industry, 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. Ministers must recognise the success of the global vaccination programme and move from a country-based approach to a risk-based one, based on individuals’ vaccination status. 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.
Additionally, as passenger numbers grow, Border Force must ensure they have adequate resources and processes in place to ensure travellers receive a warm welcome into the UK. Recent scenes of passengers waiting for hours to be processed through the UK border are totally unacceptable. Border Force can and should deliver both a secure UK border and an efficient service for passengers.
John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow CEO 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 by-pass the UK.”