The boss of Heathrow has urged government to move faster to allow "safer travel” to countries with higher Covid infection rates by trialling schemes such as passenger testing on arrival.
The UK’s largest airport revealed a 95% drop in passenger numbers during June to 350,000, compared to 2019 - with the government’s quarantine policy hitting load factors by 10%.
Heathrow said “an exit plan is now more critical than ever” as long-haul flights remain grounded and jobs continue to be put at risk “in an industry crucial to rebuilding the UK economy”.
The airport it “stands ready” to host the UK’s first “test on arrival” procedure, which subject to government approval, could allow Covid-negative passengers arriving from higher risk countries to enter the UK without the need to quarantine.
The London hub is also trialling a number of technologies and processes to stay Covid-secure as travel resumes, including existing temperature testing trials and exploring the use of UV sanitation to quickly and efficiently disinfect key touch points in the passenger journey.
Chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “Travel corridors were a great first step and now we need to go further to protect jobs and kick-start the economy, by allowing healthy passengers to travel freely between the UK and the rest of the world.
“We’re ready to pilot a testing system on arrival for passengers from ‘red’ countries as an alternative to quarantine, but even better would be to test passengers before they get on a plane.
“This requires a common international standard for testing, which the UK government could take a global lead in setting up.”