Manchester Airports Group (MAG) has called for the UK’s rules on international travel to fall in line with the rest of Europe following the publication of the Prime Minister’s Winter Plan for Covid-19.
In a statement, MAG CEO Charlie Cornish welcomed the structural review proposed in the Winter Plan, but called for concerted action from government to restore consumer confidence in booking foreign holidays and spark recovery in the aviation sector.
The statement comes following ONS statistics that have shown the aviation sector to be the hardest hit by economic and travel restrictions during the pandemic, and is recovering slower than other industries.
Data from the pilots’ union, BALPA, also showed the UK’s airports to have been worst hit by the pandemic when compared to others in Europe, with Manchester one of the most affected by route suspensions. Passengers numbers between June and August this year at Manchester Airport, typically the busiest time of the year for international travel, stood at just 1.5 million, down from over 10 million in the same period in 2019 before the pandemic.
Charlie Cornish, MAG CEO, said:
“Throughout the pandemic, our entire industry supported the need for a cautious approach to re-opening international travel.
“However, with each passing day this caution is turning into procrastination, which is restricting people’s freedoms and impacting the UK’s economic recovery from Covid-19.
“People should be free to travel again to low risk destinations without having to take any tests – whether that is PCR or lateral flow.
“Consumers are understandably frustrated, and often unwilling to pay for needless tests when visiting countries with much lower infection rates than the UK – especially when almost all domestic leisure activities have returned to normality.
“The cost of these tests has made an overseas holiday unaffordable for many families, despite the low risk now associated with international travel.
“Governments across Europe decided months ago there was no need for such restrictions to be in place – that is why travel in these countries is recovering at double the pace of the UK.
“This review of the traffic light system is long overdue, but the time for baby-steps is over. It is no longer acceptable for the UK to be out of step with the rest of Europe, and we must give people back the freedom to travel to safe destinations without the cost and inconvenience of any form of testing.”
Full details of the Prime Minister’s Winter Plan for managing Covid-19 during autumn/winter 2021-22 can be found on the government website.