Published on Monday, May 4, 2020

Social distancing at airports won't work, warns Heathrow boss

Heathrow Airport CEO John Holland-Kaye has said a common international standard of airport safety measures is needed within a month to save the summer season and to safeguard jobs.

Holland-Kaye has called on PM Boris Johnson to 'take a lead' in agreeing the standard, warning social distancing won't work because it would cause a kilometre-long queue for each flight.

In a Daily Telegraph column, he wrote: "Forget social distancing - it won't work in aviation or any other form of public transport, and the problem is not the plane, it is the lack of space in the airport.

"Just one jumbo jet would require a queue a kilometre long."

He told Press Association news agency: "It's just physically impossible to socially distance with any volume of passengers in an airport.

"Social distancing does not work in any form of public transport, let alone aviation."

He said a 'better solution' is needed to make air travel safe, believing: "The constraint is not about how many people you can fit on a plane, it will be how many people you can get through an airport safely."

He said a 'package of measures' needs to be in place that is 'practical, medically proven and builds confidence'.

He suggested health checks on entering the terminal, with passengers who are displaying high temperatures receiving further checks to ensure they can fly and said surgical face masks 'may become the norm'.

He added contact between passengers and airport staff would need to be lessened and 'fantastic levels of hygiene' maintained.

The GMB has called for urgent action to protect Heathrow airport workers. It claimed two flights arrived at the same time from the same country last week, but only one conveyor belt was allocated for passengers to collect their bags.

"No social distancing was enforced in what was a very crowded area," said Trevlyn McLeod, GMB London region organiser. "These are not safe conditions for passengers and they are not safe working conditions for our members.

"Enforcing social distancing is essential if our members and airport passengers are to feel that their lives are more important than money," he added.

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