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Published on Friday, September 11, 2020

Heathrow boss in desperate plea as August traffic collapses

Heathrow boss John Holland-Kaye has issued another desperate plea for help after the airport reported a catastrophic decline in passenger demand.

John Holland-Kaye urged the government to turn 'words into action' and warned that every day of prevarication is costing jobs and risking the viability of travel businesses.

His remarks came as the airport reported an 81.5% decline in passenger demand during August, one of the busiest months of the year.

The industry is becoming increasingly frantic as businesses continue to fold and more people lose their jobs. 

Yet the government has yet to act in any meaningful way.

Figures released this morning showed 1.4m people travelled through Heathrow in Augsut , less than a fifth of usual numbers.

Passengers travelling to and from North America collapsed 95%.

Holland-Kaye said the airport had now trailed three rapid testing solutions and has a facility for testing passengers on arrival.

"The Government has announced it is looking at the options for reducing quarantine for passengers who test negative for Covid-19 - but Ministers urgently need to turn words into action," he said. "Every day of further Government delay costs British jobs and livelihoods. Britain's economic recovery is falling behind. 

"Heathrow's traffic figures for August demonstrate the extent to which quarantine is strangling the economy, cutting British businesses off from their international markets and blocking international students, tourists and investors from coming here to spend money. "

Speaking to Sky News, Holland-Kaye said airports and airlines will go bust in the coming months 'unless something changes'.

"The government can fix this by changing the rules so that if you test negative for COVID, you can come out of quarantine early," he said.

"That will not just remove some of the risk that outbound passengers have, of not knowing whether they'll have to quarantine when they come back from their visit, but also make it easier for visitors to come to this country to spend their money, because they won't have to quarantine for 14 days, which would cover the entire length of their own holiday."

Former Prime Minister Teresa May also urged the government to introduce testing after accusing the UK of 'lagging behind' many other countries.

Speaking during a debate yesterday, May said: "I am certain that testing has to be the way forward….but at the moment airports aren't even permitted to trial tests on passengers.

"Far from leading the world the UK is lagging behind."

"The infrastructure is there, the testing capability in there, and trials would, crucially, provide data."

She said current decision-making is based on modelling which 'has not proved itself to be infallible during this pandemic'.

"The government position appears to be that if you test and there is a risk that one person has a false negative then you can't test anyone. That is a council for perfection and it is wrong, May added

"We have to get testing introduced in our airports. If you want to get the economy moving, get planes flying again. And if you want to get planes flying again give our airports permission to trial tests.

"Stop the UK dragging its feet, let's lead the world and set the standard to restore world travel and world trade." 

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