The owner of Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports has called on the government to add a fourth, restriction-free category to its proposed ‘traffic light’ system for the return to international travel.

The current framework published by the Global Travel Taskforce earlier this month includes red, amber and green categories, with arrivals from the lowest risk destinations still required to take a PCR test before departure.

Global Travel Taskforce publishes framework for return to international travel

MAG said that adding a restriction-free category would “remove significant personal cost to passengers and inject much-needed confidence into the UK aviation sector ahead of what will be a critical summer season”.

CEO Charlie Cornish said that “the price tag attached to testing will hold back the recovery and hinder the sector’s ability to power the UK’s economic revival as a whole”.

“The requirement to complete a PCR test on return from even the safest countries adds potentially unnecessary cost and the Government’s attention must now turn to finding smarter and more affordable ways to manage the risk posed by new variants of concern,” Cornish added.

“This should be achieved by forging ever-closer partnerships with key markets and developing transparent ways of sharing data into these variants so they can be effectively contained.

“Where we can trust data from other countries, forcing people to spend money on expensive PCR tests, to obtain the very same information, would represent a colossal waste of everyone’s money.

The calls came as MAG reported a 90 per cent fall in passenger numbers in the year since the inset of Covid-19.

In the rolling 12 months to March 2021 the group welcomed just over 6.3 million passengers across its three airports, compared to nearly 62 million during the 12 months to March 2020.

In March 2021 East Midlands airport served just 71 passengers, compared to 106,529 during the same period in 2020.

“The UK government is among the first to have set out proposals for a system that enables international travel to resume and should be applauded for taking the lead,” said Cornish.

“After more than a year of almost total shutdown – and with so many jobs and so much economic value at stake – it’s really important we get people moving again once it is safe to do so.

“We now need Government to confirm theMay 17 start date as soon as possible, along with the list of countries that fall into each ‘traffic light’ category”.