Heathrow boss warns against pre-arrival COVID-19 testing for longterm

Suban Abdulla
·3-min read
Terminal 2 of London Heathrow Airport. Photo: Kirsty O'Connor/PA via Getty Images
Terminal 2 of London Heathrow Airport. Photo: Kirsty O'Connor/PA via Getty Images

The boss of the UK’s biggest airport, Heathrow has warned against the longterm use of the government’s new coronavirus testing rules on people arriving in England.

Currently, those arriving in England must present a negative COVID-19 test result to enter the country.

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said that the measures can “only be temporary” and the government must plan for how to end it.

“We need to have a roadmap for how we get out of this because aviation is vital to us as a small island trading nation.”

Holland-Kaye told BBC Radio on Friday, that vaccination programmes in Britain and other nations gave him hope for a recovery in the travel sector later this year.

He said that flights will “start to come back” and passenger numbers “building up through the summer and then into the autumn.”

COVID-19 has hit the aviation industry hard, with a slew of airlines folding, and others forced to shed jobs and embark on major cost-cutting drives.

WATCH: Travellers must test negative for Covid to enter England and Scotland

READ MORE: Heathrow to shut Terminal 4 till end of 2021 as passenger numbers drop 88%

Embattled Heathrow announced in December that it will keep Terminal 4 closed until the end of next year as COVID-19 continues to affect travel.

Terminal 4 was closed during the first national lockdown. The decision saw airlines such as KLM, Air France (AF.PA) and Etihad move to Terminal 2.

Meanwhile, passenger numbers at the airport fell by 88% as travel restrictions and England’s second COVID-19 lockdown took their toll. Cargo flights were also down.

COVID-19 saw Heathrow, which made losses of £1.5bn ($2bn) in 2020, significantly revise down its 2021 forecasts. Revenue slid 72% year-on-year to £239m.

The company predicts 37.1 million passengers this year. It had forecast 62.8 million in June 2020, a sharp decline on 2019 levels but still a significant recovery compared to the 22.6 million journeys now it expected last year.

Earlier in December, the airport announced it was planning to charge drivers £5 to drop off passengers outside its terminals.

At the time, Heathrow’s director of surface access Tony Caccavone, said: The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been severe, especially on the aviation industry with Heathrow passenger numbers down over 80% and the business losing £5m a day.”

“These changes will help us to protect the business financially and save jobs in the short term, whilst also allowing us to stay on track for our long-term goals of providing safe, sustainable and affordable transport options into the future.”

At the end of October, it announced it was no longer Europe’s biggest airport, as it had been overtaken on passenger numbers by Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport for the first time, with Amsterdam Schiphol and Frankfurt “close behind.”

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