Testing Is ‘Last Chance’ To Save Industry, UK Airlines Say

COVID-19 testing Heathrow Airport
Credit: Heathrow Airport / Twitter

LONDON—The leaders of 14 UK airlines have urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to roll out airport-based COVID-19 testing before the end of September or risk “economic ruin” for the sector.

“We urge you to announce and implement a policy on testing before the end of this month, and an expansion of regional travel corridors to mainland areas,” the airlines told Johnson in their Sept. 10 letter. “The stakes could not be higher. We risk economic ruin otherwise.”

Uniting under lobby group Airlines UK, the signatories included British Airways CEO Alex Cruz, easyJet CEO Johan Lundgren, Ryanair Holdings Group CEO Michael O’Leary and Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss.

The CEOs described the current situation as “simply unsustainable.” The sector is already consulting on over 30,000 job losses, with recovery not expected for at least four years. The CEOs said this will be “the most challenging winter season we have ever faced.”

“We are now faced with a bleak winter period with no certainty as to which markets we can operate to, depressed passenger demand, a Job Retention Scheme (JRS) which is due to end in October, and the absence of a support package for aviation which other countries across Europe–long ago–put in place for their own sectors,” the airline leaders said.

They noted that over 30 countries and half the world’s busiest airports are already using COVID-19 testing.

“A COVID-19 PCR test following a five-day quarantine on arrival into the UK offers a credible balance between protecting public health and increasing demand for air travel,” the CEOs said. “At the same time, the government should implement a trial–for example between London and New York–testing both on arrival and at day five, which would provide real-world data to give ministers the reassurance that a one-test on arrival system is safe.” 

Alongside the call for COVID-19 testing, the CEOs called for a 12-month air passenger duty (APD) waiver and an extension to the job-protection scheme for key industries that continue to be impacted by COVID-19 restrictions. 

“Before it is too late, you must grasp this last chance to save the aviation industry,” the CEOs concluded.

Victoria Moores

Victoria Moores joined Air Transport World as our London-based European Editor/Bureau Chief on 18 June 2012. Victoria has nearly 20 years’ aviation industry experience, spanning airline ground operations, analytical, journalism and communications roles.