The managing director of Manchester Airport (MAN/EGCC) has hit out at the UK Governments covid travel system which she claims is holding back the recovery of UK airports compared to Europe.
In a statement, Karen Smart said that “While it is encouraging that more people are taking the opportunity to go on holiday or visit friends and family overseas, we are still yet to see a meaningful recovery in international travel.”
The airport recently published figures that passenger numbers in July were still down almost 86% on July 2019 where 3.1million passengers using the northern gateway compared to less than 500,000 passengers this July.
Among the areas highlighted by Ms Smart was the need for passengers to purchase expensive PCR tests even if there are double-vaccinated and travelling to low-risk destinations. This is something she called “out of step” with the rest of Europe and was holding back the recovery of UK airports and airlines.
The UK Government has said PCR testing is needed to enable genomic sequencing to take place to identify coronavirus variants but official data shows just 5% of the tests are actually being sent for sequencing.
Ms Smart added: “We won’t see a proper sustained recovery until the UK overhauls its costly and restrictive travel regime, which is out of step with the rest of Europe. “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 this is not happening.
“Passengers – especially those who are 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 we were told they would be.
“Meanwhile, the recovery of our sector – which supports millions of jobs of billions of pounds in economic value – continues to lag significantly behind the rest of Europe as a result of excessive restrictions in place in the UK.
“We need a simple and sustainable system for travel, which people can understand and that is proportionate to the public health position here in the UK. The Government must act urgently to review the system and re-evaluate the need for expensive PCR tests.”