Once “Europe’s busiest airport”, London Heathrow has slipped to tenth place in Europe, with the company attributing the UK’s delayed recovery to “ever-changing restrictions, costly and unnecessary test requirements and a lack of a common approach across borders”.
The UK’s top airport was the busiest in Europe in 2019. However, last month travel traffic remained 71% lower than the same month in 2019.
At the same time, other major airports like Amsterdam airport Schiphol in Amsterdam, Paris and Frankfurt are recovering at a much faster pace and have overtaken Heathrow.
These competitive EU airports have returned to the cargo flows they were recording before the pandemic in late 2020, while Heathrow has seen flows fall to 14% of August 2019 levels.
According to the Heathrow administration, “the UK’s traffic light system, which divides destinations into red, orange and green lists according to their epidemiological status, is ‘disconnected and delays the government’s global ambitions in the UK, giving rivals a competitive advantage while the UK loses market share”.
It should be noted that Boris Johnson is expected to announce a review of the system in the coming days. Even fully vaccinated travellers currently need at least one PCR test from a private provider, which can increase the cost of family holidays by hundreds of pounds to enter the UK.
“The government has the tools to protect the UK’s international competitiveness,” said Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kay. “If ministers do not use this opportunity to streamline travel rules, the UK will fall further behind as trade and tourists increasingly bypass it,” he added.
Heathrow called on ministers to simplify the system. Its proposals include scrapping the orange list in favour of a two-tier system.