Heathrow’s boss has warned there will be “no airports and airlines” if the Covid testing issue is not solved soon.
Speaking at the World Aviation Festival, Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said current passenger levels were not sustainable for either sector.
“There will be no airports and airlines if we don’t solve this problem in the next few months,” he said. “No aviation business can survive indefinitely without passengers.”
He said a common international testing standard was needed, but this required the cooperation of governments worldwide. “The thing that stops people from travelling is inconsistency between governments.”
The UK government was assessing more than 100 test providers, he said.
“If we could get one of the tests where within an hour or two you are clear, that would allow us to get back to a normal pattern of flying.”
Heathrow already has testing facilities in two terminals, but Holland-Kaye said they were not being used.
“Unless passengers can get a reduced quarantine when they pass a test, there is no point.”
He said aviation was “not just another economic sector, it is the enabler of an economic sector” and called for a Heathrow-New York air corridor.
“New York is the busiest route in the world, so there is enough demand to support a pilot.”
However, he said the UK and US would need to adopt common standards and have passengers transiting from other destinations adhere to them.
Heathrow lost £1.1 billion in the first half of 2020, most of it in the second quarter. In April, passenger volumes slumped to 3% of normal levels and are now 15-20% of normal.
“Eurocontrol is forecasting traffic to stay at that level for the next six months,” Holland-Kaye said, but added: “We have enough passengers to carry us through the middle of next year and enough liquidity for even longer.”
He added lockdown had proved there was a huge demand for aviation. “If you look at Google searches, everyone was staying in their living rooms searching for somewhere to fly to.”