Britain’s Heathrow Airport called on the government to open up the country to vaccinated travellers from the European Union and United States from the end of this month to help fuel a travel recovery after another torrid six months. Heathrow, which before the pandemic was the busiest airport in Europe, said that fewer than four million people travelled through it in the first half of 2021, a level which would have been surpassed by 18 days worth of 2019’s traffic.
“The UK…is falling behind its EU rivals in international trade by being slow to remove restrictions," Heathrow Chief Executive John Holland-Kaye said in a statement on Monday.
For the six months to June 30, Heathrow posted an adjusted loss before tax of 787 million pounds ($1.08 billion), compared to the 471 million loss for the same period last year which was only half affected by the pandemic.
Earlier this month, Heathrow Airport announced that it was planning to trial fast-track queues for those arriving from some destinations fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as part of plans to facilitate smoother travel. The trial scheme by British Airways and Virgin Atlantic will mean passengers from certain select countries will be able to upload their vaccination status before boarding. It comes as the aviation industry calls for quarantine-free travel to the UK from lower-risk amber list countries and UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is expected to announce such plans later this week.
“At the moment the main barrier to people who have been doubly vaccinated travelling being allowed to do that, is being able to demonstrate to the government that we can check that they’ve had the vaccination already, John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow Airport, told the BBC. “The trial that we’re starting later this week will allow us to demonstrate we can do that safely with 100 per cent checks on double vaccination before people get on the plane," he said.
The trial will allow passengers who are fully vaccinated and are travelling on selected flights to Heathrow from Athens, Los Angeles, Montego Bay and New York to show proof of their vaccination status. It will accept internationally recognised vaccination credentials, including the NHS app, CDC card, US state-level digital certification and the EU digital COVID certificate. India currently remains on the red list of high risk countries from where travel remains effectively banned, with compulsory hotel quarantine for returning British residents.
People taking part in the Heathrow trial from this weekend will be able to use a dedicated arrivals lane at the UK border. Sean Doyle, British Airways chief executive and chairman, said he was “confident" the trial would be successful. “We look forward to providing the data that proves it’s simple for fully vaccinated status to be verified and to the government meeting its commitment to get the country moving again," he said.
(With inputs from wire agencies)