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Airports are the forgotten casualties of the Covid-19 pandemic
Heathrow Airport has increased its environmental charges by 7%, incentivising airlines to use their newest aircraft to minimise the impact on local communities under the flight path. Julian Turner spoke to Nathalie Herbelles of Airports Council International to find out more
When discussing the impact of coronavirus on the tourism industry, the focus has understandably been on hotels, cruises and airlines. However, airports have also been hit extremely hard over the last year, due to the extraordinary decrease in airline passenger numbers.
Manchester Airport has been forced to shut one of its three terminals as Covid-19 hits demand. The decision follows the monitoring of travel patterns since July, which have not increased in the way that many in the tourism industry had hoped. Meanwhile, easyJet announced it will close its bases at Stansted, Southend and Newcastle, with the loss of 670 jobs.
Passengers using Luton Airport were down by 74% in July 2020 compared with July 2019, despite claiming to have the strongest recovery of any major airport in the UK. These figures highlight the ongoing difficulties that airports in the UK are experiencing.
If passenger numbers do not increase over the next few months, it will make it extremely difficult for airports to continue operating at their current scale. If any airports within the UK were to close it would have dire consequences for the airlines and retail companies that operate within them.
Airports are trying to take matters into their own hands
London’s Heathrow Airport, unveiled a new coronavirus testing facility in mid-August that it says could halve the length of time people have to stay at home after arriving from countries on the British Government’s quarantine list.
The government said it wasn’t ready to give its backing to the facility but insisted that it was working with airports on how a new testing regime can reduce the 14-day quarantine period that travellers face when arriving from more than 100 countries.
Heathrow chief executive officer John Holland-Kaye stated the government needs to act swiftly to stop “holding back the recovery of the UK economy” due to the restrictions on many travellers arriving in the country.
This is a positive move from Heathrow, which could greatly improve the current situation for British tourism businesses. If this process could be adopted across the UK, it could massively increase the number of passengers who are willing to travel over the coming months.
Cardiff Airport has called on the UK Government to introduce a package of support measures for the hard-pressed aviation sector including suspending air passenger duty (APD) for a number of years.
It seems inconceivable that the airport industry will be able to continue operating without significant government support. The sooner this happens, the less damage will be done to the industry.
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