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Heathrow calls for travel rule changes as it slips down global ranks

Heathrow calls for rule changes to revive the UK’s struggling travel industry as it slips down the list of Europe’s busiest airports

  • The UK’s busiest airport saw 71% fewer passengers in August compared to 2019
  • Heathrow has fallen from first to 10th in the list of Europe’s busiest airports
  • The UK’s travel sector is recovering more slowly than European competitors
  • Heathrow urges two-tier system to replace current complicated arrangements 

Heathrow has called for changes to travel rules to help the struggling travel industry recover, as the UK’s biggest airport revealed passenger numbers were 71 per cent lower in August compared to before Covid-19 struck.

Since 2019, the airport has plummeted from first to 10th place in the list of Europe’s busiest airports, with Heathrow pinning the blame on the complicated, expensive and constantly shifting rules for UK arrivals for the glacial recovery in the country’s travel sector.

Expectations are growing that there will be a simplification of those travel rules, after Health Minister Sajid Javid said on Sunday that he wanted to ‘get rid of’ expensive PCR tests for travellers as soon as possible.

Long queues have resulted in calls for more border staff at the airport

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will this week set out his plans to manage the pandemic in the winter months.

Heathrow is backing a shift from a three-tier to a two-tier system with countries labelled as ‘green’ or ‘red’, and only the latter requiring hotel quarantine.

Fully-vaccinated travellers would be able to travel freely, the system being used by many European countries, while those not vaccinated would take pre-departure or arrival tests using lateral flow tests, which are cheaper than PCR tests.

Despite long lines, passenger numbers remain well below their 2019 levels

Despite long lines, passenger numbers remain well below their 2019 levels 

The airport said major airlines supported the idea, as it warned of the consequences of not improving the current system.

‘If ministers fail to take this opportunity to streamline the travel rules then the UK will fall further behind as trade and tourists will increasingly by-pass the UK,’ Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said.

The airport also called on the government to ensure it had adequate staff at the border after reports of hours-long queues in recent weeks.