Testing commitment welcome first step but Government must implement a system as quickly as possible

Wednesday 7th October 2020

Following on from the announcement of the Global Travel Taskforce by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps MP and Health Secretary Matt Hancock MP, Airport Operators Chief Executive Karen Dee said:

“Today’s announcement of a commitment to implement a testing system for international travel is a welcome first step.  Airports will work with the Government to get this up and running as soon as possible to allow our industry to begin its long recovery from the devastating impacts of the pandemic. A key focus for the taskforce also has to be the introduction of new rapid tests as soon as possible, both to make testing quicker and cheaper, as well as reducing the time passengers would need to isolate.  Ultimately the objective we must move towards is ending quarantine altogether through globally aligned testing system which will promote clarity and confidence in air travel while protecting public health.

“We have been talking about testing since June and many other countries around the world are already successfully using it.  We must start the operation of the scheme as quickly as practicalities allow so the UK is not left behind. We believe that from a health perspective a testing regime can be far preferable to just relying on quarantine.

“Since March UK airports have been forced to effectively shutdown to commercial traffic leaving our industry on its knees. Even with the existing Government support, the loss of revenue is enormous:

  • Heathrow has reported pre-tax losses for the first six months of 2020 of £1.1bn
  • Gatwick has reported pre-tax losses the first six months of 2020 of £343m
  • Significant financial and job losses throughout the UK’s network of regional airports
  • Projections by the AOA show that up 110,000 airport and airport related jobs are at risk

“Today’s announcement must be the start of a renewed focus on our sector – it is essential that the Government bring forward the promised Aviation Recovery Package of support including business rates relief for airports in England and Wales, continuation of VAT-free sales airside, funding for the CAA and a temporary suspension of APD. These much-needed measures will help support our airports as they look to tackle the challenging winter months ahead.

“This announcement is positive and encouraging, but it is vital that the Government step up its support to protect our international connectivity.”