The boss of London City airport has urged government to promptly agree air bridges with the UK’s low-Covid risk neighbours as the airport prepares to restart passenger flight operations on Sunday (21 June).
Chief executive Robert Sinclair said a new survey of nearly 5,000 London City airport passengers found "encouraging early passenger demand" and a desire, after months under lockdown, to not only to get away on holiday but to restore business travel links as well.
Just shy of 80% of respondents said they were either very likely (48%) or quite likely to travel when they are told by government, airports and airlines it is safe to do so.
Four in 10 City travellers, meanwhile, said they planned to travel for leisure within the next three months, with business travel achieving the same rate of early renewed interest.
City’s first scheduled flight will operate on Sunday, while Loganair will start its Dundee service on 6 July. Eastern Airways will launch its Teesside route the same day.
“This clear early demand from our passengers to get back to flying is really encouraging," said Sinclair. "We have worked hard to create a safe environment so they can get back to flying in confidence.
"At the same time, we have been careful not to sacrifice the speed through the airport which passengers have always valued and is now more important than ever, as these results show."
New health, safety and hygiene measures at City airport include limiting terminal access to those with a flight ticket; requiring passengers to wear a face covering, observe social distancing and practice good hand hygiene; installing hand sanitiser stations throughout the airport; and extending existing cleaning routines, including coating surfaces with a new long-life anti-microbial treatment.
City’s survey found that 76% of passengers would choose to wear a face mask or covering, irrespective of whether it was mandatory or not, while 78% said they would seek to avoid checking in via face-to-face check-in desks.
In total, 4,705 people responded to City’s survey between 8-15 June.
Sinclair added the airport would be making "a number of announcements" with airlines over the coming weeks he said passengers should be excited for.
On the politics surrounding the resumption of flights, Sinclair said: “With the aviation market opening up across Europe this week, it is my hope air bridges can be agreed quickly with low-risk European neighbours. This news would be a shot in the arm for the industry as well as for the wider UK economy.”
Adam Tyndall, transport director at non-for-profit business campaign group London First, added: “This survey reinforces the need for the government to switch quickly to risk-based approach to international travel.
"Both the blanket Foreign Office advice not to travel abroad and the mandatory two-week quarantine for all arrivals into the UK should be limited to the highest risk countries.
"Aviation can play a vital role in the economic recovery, from exports and professional services through to universities and hospitality, but only if the government removes these indiscriminate constraints and reverts to a nuanced, risk-based approach."
City expects to restart its Scottish and Irish route networks in July, while international flights to destinations such as Ibiza, Florence, Malaga and Palma "are expected to return over the coming weeks".