The owner of Manchester and Stansted airports has urged the UK government to introduce a fourth “restriction-free” category to its new “traffic lights” system.
MAG, which also operates East Midlands airport, said a fourth category alongside the planned green, amber and red regimes would “aid recovery” and “capitalise” on the success of the UK’s Covid-19 vaccination programme.
The airport operator added that having a restriction-free category to low-risk destinations would allow travellers to go overseas without having to pay for expensive PCR tests, which will still be required for visitors returning home from countries classified as green.
Charlie Cornish, the group’s chief executive, added: “The price tag attached to testing will hold back the recovery and hinder the sector’s ability to power the UK’s economic revival as a whole.
“The requirement to complete a PCR test on return from even the safest countries adds potentially unnecessary cost and the government’s attention must now turn to finding smarter and more affordable ways to manage the risk posed by new variants of concern.
“This should be achieved by forging ever-closer partnerships with key markets and developing transparent ways of sharing data into these variants so they can be effectively contained.
“Where we can trust data from other countries, forcing people to spend money on expensive PCR tests, to obtain the very same information, would represent a colossal waste of everyone’s money.”
MAG’s call for a restriction-free category came as it revealed traffic dropped by 89% to just 6.3 million passengers at its three airports over the past 12 months due to the pandemic causing a “near shutdown” of the country’s aviation sector.