Coronavirus: Quarantine blamed for 7% hit to Heathrow passengers
13 July 2020, 08:57 | Updated: 13 July 2020, 11:44
Heathrow Airport says government quarantine measures aimed at curbing imported coronavirus cases resulted in a 7% hit to passenger numbers last month.
The measures, implemented from 8 June to the fury of the travel industry, initially meant all in-bound passengers to the UK had to self-isolate for 14 days.
The rules have since been relaxed through the creation of so-called air bridges, also known as travel corridors, covering flights from more than 70 nations - countries judged to have low rates of COVID-19 infections.
Heathrow reported on Monday that total passenger numbers in June were 95% down on the same month in 2019, with just 350,000 people using the hub.
It noted a 7% impact on the proportion of flight seats filled - known as the load factor - from the effects of the quarantine alone and called on the government to "protect jobs and kick-start the economy" by extending free movement.
The quarantine forced fierce competitors to join forces in a bid to have it declared illegal but British Airways, Ryanair and easyJet withdrew their case when ministers eased the restrictions.
Airlines believe it will be several years before demand recovers to 2019 levels and Heathrow has not been immune from imposing job cuts to preserve cash following months of limited business.
Heathrow argued that a quarantine exit plan was "now more critical than ever, as long-haul flights remain grounded and more jobs continue to be put at risk in an industry crucial to rebuilding the UK economy".
Chief executive John Holland-Kaye added: "Travel corridors were a great first step and now we need to go further to protect jobs and kick-start the economy by allowing healthy passengers to travel freely between the UK and the rest of the world.
"We're ready to pilot a testing system on arrival for passengers from 'red' countries as an alternative to quarantine, but even better would be to test passengers before they get on a plane.
"This requires a common international standard for testing, which the UK government could take a global lead in setting up."
Sky News has contacted the Department for Transport for a statement.
(c) Sky News 2020: Coronavirus: Quarantine blamed for 7% hit to Heathrow passengers