Manchester Airport Managing Director, Karen Smart, has said that ‘costly’ travel restrictions are hampering the economic recovery of the aviation sector following the coronavirus pandemic.
July passenger numbers published this week by Manchester Airport show volumes remain down 85.9% on July 2019. Before the pandemic hit, the airport served 3,178,505 passengers, compared to just 447,954 in the same month this year.
With just three weeks of the peak summer season remaining, Karen Smart says the requirement for passengers to pay for PCR tests, even when fully vaccinated and returning from low-risk destinations, was “out of step” with the rest of Europe and holding back the recovery of UK airports and airlines. Data from the Airports Council International – Europe show airports on the continent are serving around 59% of pre-pandemic traffic, versus 28% in the UK.
Karen Smart, Managing Director of Manchester Airport, said:
“While it is encouraging that more people are taking the opportunity to go on holiday or visit friends and family overseas, we are still yet to see a meaningful recovery in international travel.
“We won’t see a proper sustained recovery until the UK overhauls its costly and restrictive travel regime, which is out of step with the rest of Europe.
“UK passengers continue to be subjected to onerous and expensive PCR testing on the basis they will be sequenced to protect the UK from variants of concern, but it is clear this is not happening.
“Passengers – especially those who are fully vaccinated – will be right to question why they are forced to pay the extra cost for tests which are not being used in the way we were told they would be.
“Meanwhile, the recovery of our sector – which supports millions of jobs of billions of pounds in economic value – continues to lag significantly behind the rest of Europe as a result of excessive restrictions in place in the UK.
“We need a simple and sustainable system for travel, which people can understand and that is proportionate to the public health position here in the UK. The Government must act urgently to review the system and re-evaluate the need for expensive PCR tests.”
With just three weeks of the peak summer season remaining, Karen Smart says the requirement for passengers to pay for PCR tests, even when fully vaccinated and returning from low-risk destinations, was “out of step” with the rest of Europe and holding back the recovery of UK airports and airlines.
The UK’s blanket requirement for PCR testing and pre-departure testing differs dramatically to the approach taken by most European countries, which are allowing fully vaccinated passengers to travel between low-risk destinations without having to take any tests.
The Government has said PCR testing is needed to enable genomic sequencing to take place to identify variants of concern, but the latest official data shows only around 5% are actually being sent for sequencing and brings into question the need for passengers to take these tests.
While the Government has asked the Competition and Markets Authority to look into the testing industry to see if there are ways to reduce prices, this data highlights the need to scrap the blanket requirement for PCR tests altogether for vaccinated travellers to make travel more affordable.