Restriction-free travel has been limited to a small number of countries, with no indication of which destinations may be added for the summer
Heathrow is calling upon the government to expand its list of ‘green’ countries and to provide the destinations that are expected to be open in time for summer, as the aviation sector feels let down once again.
In April, the airport lost 6.2 million passengers – a 92.1% decline compared with figures from 2019.
Whilst the lifting of the travel ban on May 17 has been well received, the London hub still believes the short list of countries without quarantine restrictions is overly cautious. After a review of the measures set to take place in three weeks, it is hoped that more will be added to increase trade and reunite families.
John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow CEO, said: “The Government’s green list is very welcome, but they need to expand it massively in the next few weeks to include other low risk markets such as the United States, and remove the need for fully vaccinated passengers to take two expensive PCR tests.
“Border Force’s claims that ‘long queues in immigration are inevitable’ smack of complacency – they are completely avoidable if ministers ensure that all desks are staffed at peak times.”
Publishing the expected green countries could also allow customers to plan ahead and therefore avoid facing the high fees for last minute bookings.
Due to the effectiveness and continuation of the vaccination programme, those with the jab should be able to travel without any restrictions, according to Heathrow.
Karen Dee, who's the chief executive of the trade body Airport Operators Association, also agrees that those who have been immunised should be exempt from following restrictions, stating that “this is not the meaningful restart aviation and the UK economy need right now”.
She added: “The UK’s world-leading vaccination programme combined with advanced testing capabilities should allow for a genuine green light for international travel. The government needs to introduce affordable, rapid testing for green country arrivals and keep the green list under constant review and add countries as soon as the improving health situation in Europe and the US allows.”
Charlie Cornish, CEO of MAG, reiterates that “clear scientific evidence” has been ignored in the process of making these decisions.
“The British public will understandably question why our world-leading vaccination programme has not earned them the freedom to travel abroad without expensive and inconvenient tests - a freedom that other governments, including the European Union, will be giving to people who have been vaccinated.”
The decrease in passenger flights has also severely affected the UK’s supply chain. Only 116,000 tonnes of cargo passed through Heathrow last month, compared with 132,000 in April 2019. Allowing countries to reconnect with international networks is vital for trade and exports.