Manchester Airport urges to change traffic light system

Published on : Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Manchester Airport

According to Manchester Airport, UK’s traffic light system and travel restrictions would mean the aviation sector in the country is recovering at just half the rate of the rest of Europe. Karen Smart, Managing Director, Manchester Airport recently called upon the government to change the current system.

According to the airport’s passenger figures for July, passenger levels were down 86 per cent down as compared to July 2019, when the airport served 3,178,505 passengers, compared to just 447,954 in the same month this year. Manchester Airport said that since the review of the traffic light system on August 4, which added more countries to the green and amber lists volumes have slightly picked up but remain significantly below pre-pandemic levels.

Karen Smart mentioned that the requirement for passengers to pay for PCR tests, even when fully vaccinated and returning from low-risk destinations, was “out of step” with the rest of Europe and is holding back the recovery of UK airports and airlines. She mentioned that while it is encouraging that more people are taking the opportunity to go on holiday or visit friends and family overseas, the UK is yet to see a meaningful recovery in international travel.

She shared that a proper sustained recovery would not be possible until the UK overhauls its costly and restrictive travel regime.  She said that UK passengers continue to be subjected to onerous and expensive PCR testing on the basis they will be sequenced to protect the UK from variants of concern, but it is clear that move is not working out.  

She also mentioned that passengers especially the ones fully vaccinated will be right to question why they are forced to pay the extra cost for tests which are not being used in the way it was told before. She added that the airline sector supports millions of jobs of billions of pounds in economic value but it is continuously lagging behind the rest of Europe as a result of excessive restrictions in place in the UK.

She stated that the UK needs a simple and sustainable system for travel, which people can understand and that is proportionate to the public health position here in the UK. She urged the government to act urgently to review the system and re-evaluate the need for expensive PCR tests. The latest traffic figures arrived after data from Airports Council International – Europe (ACI Europe) laid bare the extent to which the UK is out of step with the rest of the continent in terms of the revival of international travel.

As per the figures, Europe’s airports are serving around 59 per cent of pre-pandemic traffic, compared to just 28 per cent in the UK. The blanket requirement for PCR testing and pre-departure testing differs dramatically to the approach taken by most European countries, which are allowing fully vaccinated passengers to travel between low-risk destinations without having to take any tests.

The government has said PCR testing is needed to enable genomic sequencing to take place to identify variants of concern, but the latest official data shows only around five per cent are actually being sent for sequencing and brings into question the need for passengers to take these tests. While the government has asked the Competition & Markets Authority to look into the testing industry to see if there are ways to reduce prices, this data highlights the need to scrap the blanket requirement for PCR tests altogether for vaccinated travellers to make travel more affordable.

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