Change Covid travel rules or lose out, Heathrow boss tells Government

·2-min read
Mr Holland-Kaye said airports in Europe are operating pretty much as normal (PA Wire)
Mr Holland-Kaye said airports in Europe are operating pretty much as normal (PA Wire)

The head of Heathrow airport on Monday urged the Government to change travel rules or risk the UK being bypassed by trade and tourists.

John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow, called for the removal of the requirement for double vaccinated passengers to have a PCR test, and for the traffic light system to be streamlined to just two colours — red and green.

It comes as figures show passenger numbers at Heathrow in August were still 71 per cent lower compared with the same month before the pandemic.

Mr Holland-Kaye said airports in Europe are operating pretty much as normal, whereas the UK is losing competitiveness “because of the very tight controls and very expensive tests that individuals are required to pay”.

Speaking on Sky News today, he said: “The cost and complexity of testing is having a huge impact.”

It comes after an Evening Standard investigation revealed that holidaymakers paid out more than £1 billion for compulsory Covid tests this summer.

Mr Holland-Kaye 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.”

Heathrow has gone from being Europe’s busiest airport in 2019 to number 10 on the list, behind rivals in cities such as Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt.

Under the airport’s proposals, fully vaccinated arrivals from green list locations would no longer be required to take a test, whereas those who are not fully vaccinated would need to take lateral flow tests pre-departure and post-arrival.

Only those who test positive would need to take a more expensive PCR test. Hotel quarantine would be retained for arrivals from high-risk red list countries.

Expectations are growing that there will be a simplification of travel rules, after Health Minister Sajid Javid said that he wanted to “get rid of” expensive PCR tests for travellers as soon as possible.

There are also reports that the Government is preparing to overhaul its traffic light system.

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