As it reported today that it had lost 6.2 million passengers in April, down 92.1%, compared to pre-pandemic 2019 figures - following over a year of restrictions on non-essential travel - Heathrow called for significant expansion of 'green' countries and a list of countries expected to be open for summer holidays.
Image courtesy Heathrow
Whilst Heathrow welcomed the lifting of the travel ban from 17th May, it stated today that the green list is overly cautious, given the other controls in place on passengers travelling from low risk countries.
It said the next review in three weeks’ time should bring a significant expansion to the list of 'green' countries, including the United States, to increase trade, as well as reunite friends and families with their loved ones, saying Government should help people plan ahead by publishing a list of countries expected to be on the green list for the summer holidays so that passengers are not faced with high prices for last minute bookings.
The rapid progress on vaccination and increased confidence in its effectiveness against variants of concern should allow a significant simplification of the 'traffic light' system at the end of June, including allowing fully vaccinated people to travel without restrictions.
Heathrow welcomes government plans to automate border checks but until they have been implemented, Ministers should ensure that every desk is staffed at peak times to avoid unacceptable queue times in immigration.
Fewer passenger flights are severely impacting the UK’s supply chain and British exporters, with only 116,000 metric tonnes of cargo travelled through Heathrow last month, compared to over 132,000 in April 2019, down 12%. Reopening critical trading routes such as the United States will enable exporters to reconnect with key global networks and unlock billions of pounds worth of trade and exports.
Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye, said: “The Government’s green list is very welcome but they need to expand it massively in the next few weeks to include other low risk markets such as the United States, and remove the need for fully vaccinated passengers to take two expensive PCR tests. Border Force’s claims that “long queues in immigration are inevitable” smack of complacency – they are completely avoidable if Ministers ensure that all desks are staffed at peak times.”