Travel cannot afford for the costs of the government’s new pre-departure testing regime "to be baked in over the whole summer", Airlines UK chief Tim Alderslade has said.
Alderslade, head of the trade body for UK registered carriers, said the focus must quickly turn to "returning travel to normal" and lifting measures as people are vaccinated.
It comes after aviation and maritime minister Robert Courts on Monday (11 January) confirmed the UK’s pre-departure testing regime would come into force on Friday (15 January).
From 4am on Friday, all UK arrivals will be required to provide evidence of negative Covid certification resulting from a test taken up to 72 hours prior to departure.
Alderslade said airlines recognised the UK was mired in a national health emergency that required ministers to take action to keep the country safe.
However, he stressed the new measures – which the sector has long called for – should replace the UK’s existing quarantine regime, rather than come in addition to it.
"It is true that much of the sector has been lobbying for pre-departure testing, but this was always predicated on the government removing or reducing the quarantine period at the same time," he said. "Now we have both quarantine and pre-departure testing.
"That’s why this new policy needs to be a time-limited, emergency measure only, in place not a second longer than necessary, and with a proper review mechanism once lockdown comes to an end. We cannot afford for this to be baked in over the whole summer."
Alderslade added: “The focus must be on returning travel to normal as quickly as possible and removing the need to quarantine or take a test as the UK population is vaccinated.
"Ideally, as the vaccination roll-out gathers pace and the most at-risk parts of the country are inoculated, we can start to see the economy – and travel – open up, which would enable the sector to have what will be a critical summer season for aviation.”