Ahead of the UK Government’s final checkpoint review for its Global Travel Taskforce, Airline Operators Association (AOA) and Airlines UK have sent a letter on behalf of UK aviation to the UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps. The letter urges the government to “fundamentally rebalance its approach to international travel and enable a more meaningful recovery of aviation.”
Signed by Tim Alderslade, Chief Executive, Airlines UK and Karen Dee, Chief Executive, AOA, the letter noted that the “UK is an outlier, both compared to the UK’s approach to domestic restrictions and internationally. While festivals and nightclubs have been able to reopen without restrictions, aviation continues to be held back by complex and burdensome rules and costly testing requirements.”
It also highlighted that summer 2021 was “a worse summer for our industry than summer 2020 – making us unique in the UK economy. Europe has shown the way to safely re-open travel and has seen a much faster recovery in international travel volumes and passenger numbers. The UK is being left behind despite its world-beating vaccination programme.”
Commenting on the UK’s travel rules being disproportionate to any health benefit, the letter also said that “despite the huge cost to travellers, only a minority of positive cases are sequenced (just 0.03% of test from green arrivals in July), and no VoCs are being detected for the vast majority of countries.
With nearly 60% of staff in the air transport sector on furlough at the end of June – the highest of any sector – there is genuine concern there will be further job losses as furlough ends especially with a challenging winter season ahead.
Recognising the success of the UK’s vaccination strategy and the approach to domestic restrictions, Dee and Alderslade propose the following measures for the UK’s air transport sector: Fully vaccinated travellers and anyone travelling from low-risk countries should now be able to travel without restrictions of testing; just like domestic UK travel; Greater certainty and predictability so that travellers and families are not constantly looking over their shoulders in case of rule changes, disruption or significant unexpected costs; VoCs kept at bay through a red list, applicable only to the highest-risk countries.
Traffic light reform
Meanwhile Manchester Airport Group’s CEO, Charlie Cornish, is calling for the UK’s traffic light system to be reformed urgently and ahead of the scheduled 1 October review date. Reiterating how ONS data from June shows that aviation remains the worst hit UK sector, MAG is calling on the UK Government to bring in a simplified two-tier system and remove mandatory testing requirements for fully vaccinated arrivals from countries without new, concerning COVID-19 variants.
“Fully vaccinated British residents can only look on in envy as people across Europe enjoy the freedom to travel easily to low-risk holiday destinations,” said MAG CEO Charlie Cornish.
“With restrictions almost entirely removed across the UK, now is the time to give people back those freedoms to explore, relax and visit loved ones.
“The UK’s over-cautious and unnecessarily complex traffic light system is confusing to customers and places needless barriers in the way of them booking travel.
“The impact that is having on our sector is clear, with traffic levels recovering at a much greater rate across Europe than here in the UK.
“Meanwhile, the rest of the economy has been opened up to those who are double-jabbed, leaving travel as the only sector whose recovery is being held back for no logical reason.
“A simpler, more sensible approach to international travel must be adopted as soon as possible, and Government has the opportunity to deliver that in response to proposals put forward by MAG and others in our sector in the weeks ahead.”