The boss of Heathrow, one of Britain’s largest international airports, has warned that the UK economy is being “strangled” and that “tens of thousands of jobs” are being lost due to Britain being “cut off” from major travel destinations — US, Canada and Singapore.
In a statement on Tuesday, John Holland-Kaye, CEO at Heathrow said: "Tens of thousands of jobs are being lost because Britain remains cut off from critical markets such as the US, Canada and Singapore. The government can save jobs by introducing testing to cut quarantine from higher risk countries, while keeping the public safe from a second wave of COVID.”
The group reported an 88% decline in passengers year-on-year at 860,000 for July. While this reflected an uptick in passenger traffic on the month, due to the UK government's creation of the first 'travel corridors' on 4 July, it is still significantly down on the year.
It noted that more than half of these passengers, over 480,000, went to European destinations due to those places being quarantine free but opening up travel to major destinations, namely US, Canada, and Singapore, would allow a greater volume of passengers to travel.
“The vast majority of Heathrow's route network (60%) remains grounded, requiring a 14-day quarantine on arrival, preventing the UK from travelling to and trading with these countries. Airport testing could safely open up these routes and kickstart the UK's economic recovery,” Heathrow said in its statement.
Heathrow has insisted that airport testing would be better than quarantine measures. It highlighted how it had already unveiled a range of measures such as UV robots, UV handrail technology, Fly Safe pit stops, and Hygiene technicians to reduce the risk of contracting or transmitting COVID-19 at the airport.
On 9 August, the travel industry urged the government to rethink its 14-day quarantine policy as rising cases of coronavirus is now putting popular travel destinations, such as France and Greece, at risk of that policy being applied. Spain, Belgium and Andorra are also at risk of falling under that quarantine policy.
On Sunday (9 August), Britain’s confirmed coronavirus cases rose by 1,062 — the first time the daily total has risen above 1,000 since late June.
Last month, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) warned that it will take five years for the travel industry to return to the pre-pandemic level of passenger demand.
“The trajectory of new COVID-19 cases has been worse than we expected in our April forecast update. While business confidence (and we think GDP growth) has rebounded, consumer confidence has not.
“We will likely see a degree of pent-up demand to visit friends and family in the near-term as travel restrictions are lifted but we are less optimistic about the return of business (in particular) and leisure travel. As a result, we have revised down our passenger forecast over the next five-year period. In our new forecasts, we expect RPKs to decline by a little more than 60% in 2020 compared to 2019, with a return to pre -COVID levels not occurring before 2024.”
It predicts that the global airline industry will lose $84.3bn (£64.5bn) in 2020.