Heathrow calls for recovery flight plan after de facto border closure

Posted on 11 February, 2021 by Advance 

With the UK Government introducing additional measures that place further restrictions on travel, Heathrow is calling for a flight plan for the safe restart of international travel as part of the Prime Minister’s roadmap on 22nd February.

Image courtesy Heathrow

Passenger volumes were down 89% in January as the national lockdown, travel bans, blanket quarantine and compulsory testing deterred people from travelling.

The additional inconvenience and cost of quarantine hotels, day 2/day 8 testing requirements on top of other measures, mean that the UK’s borders are effectively closed and Heathrow is working with the Government to try to ensure this complex scheme is workable.

Heathrow stressed that UK exporters, service industry, inbound tourism and education that rely on aviation need to see a 'flight plan' to reopen Britain’s borders safely as part of the Prime Minister’s roadmap to recovery on 22nd February. 

The government also needs to provide targeted support to ensure the aviation sector can survive the current crisis, including full business rates relief and an extension to the furlough scheme.

Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye, said: “We support the Government in measures required to protect public health. But these additional requirements are essentially a border closure. That will inevitably delay the country’s recovery and hurt the UK’s supply chains. We need to see the flight plan for the safe restart of international travel as part of the Prime Minister’s roadmap on 22 February.

"We also need to preserve our vital aviation infrastructure to support economic recovery when it comes and make Global Britain a reality. That means the Chancellor must use next month’s budget to deliver the minimum help that aviation needs with 100% business rates relief and an extension of the furlough scheme.”

Fewer long-haul passenger flights meant that cargo volume was down 21% in January – a key indicator of the damage that travel restrictions are having on the UK’s exports and supply chain.

Heathrow is glad the CAA has acknowledged the need to adjust Heathrow's regulatory settlement to ensure the airport continues to deliver for consumers. The previous settlement could not have accounted for a crisis of this scale. An appropriate adjustment now would support the regulatory model, increase long-term investment in the UK and lower long-term prices for consumers. The CAA must act in March after its consultation.