Heathrow airport slams Britain over lack of passenger testing

Travellers arriving from Madrid at the Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport REUTERS  Henry Nicholls

Travellers arriving from Madrid at the Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport REUTERS Henry Nicholls

Heathrow Airport is proposing a regime of testing in a bid to reduce 14-day quarantines and get people travelling as the travel sector suffers under the strain of the coronavirus crisis.

The airport today warning that without one it would lose a game of global "quarantine roulette" after coronavirus stalled aviation.

Testing passengers for Covid-19 on arrival in the United Kingdom is 'not a silver bullet, the Culture Secretary, Oliver Dowden, has said, as Downing Street continues to come under pressure over quarantine plans.

In an interview with the BBC on Wednesday, Heathrow's Chief Executive John Holland-Kaye urged the United Kingdom government to restart travel to get the country's fragile economy going again - by introducing coronavirus testing at airports - and fast.

The CEO said that the cost of the test would come down as more people signed up for it.

While he conceded that was not cheap, he said consumers and business travelers would be prepared to pay, and it would help Britain protect its aviation industry, which has already announced over 20,000 job cuts, and facilitate trade.

The solution suggested, would be to mitigate the mandatory 14-day isolation for countries that are not on the government's green list if they test negative.

"Pre-flight testing for passengers from high-risk countries will allow long-haul flying to resume, which is critical for the UK's economic recovery", Holland-Kaye said.

It can incubate over a period of time, so there's not a silver bullet of just testing immediately at the border.

The test would add significant cost to the cost of travel, with Heathrow's biggest operator British Airways selling European tickets from about 50 pounds and tickets to the United States from about 400 pounds.

Airports are also suffering.

Passenger numbers at Europe's busiest airport fell 96 percent in the second quarter of 2020, with an 85 percent revenue drop pushing the airport to a $1.43 billion loss for the first six months of the year.

Heathrow, along with airlines and the entire world tourism industry, is hurting.

Heathrow insists that its finances remain robust, with cash reserves sufficient until at least June 2021 with no revenue, and they claim to have agreed a waiver on financial covenants until the end of 2021 and maintained their Investment Grade credit rating status.

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