Heathrow airport has called for a significant expansion of countries included in the government’s green list.
As a result of restrictions on non-essential travel, Heathrow saw a loss of 6.2 million passengers in April, with just 536,000 people travelling through the airport – a drop of 92.1 per cent compared to 2019 figures.
While the airport has welcomed the lifting of the travel ban on May 17, it believes that the green list is “overly cautious given the other controls in place on passengers travelling from low risk countries”.
Last week, the UK government confirmed its new green list of countries including Portugal, Gibraltar and Israel among the 12 destinations. Travellers arriving into England from these destinations will still have to take a test before they return, as well as on day two after their return, but they will not need to quarantine on arrival. The list is set to be reviewed every three weeks.
Ahead of the next review, Heathrow has called on the government to expand the list, emphasising the inclusion of the US, “to increase trade, reunite friends and families with their loved ones”.
The airport adds that the government should publish a list of countries expected to be on the green list for the summer holidays so that the public can “plan ahead” and avoid being met with high prices for last minute bookings.
Additionally, owing to the rapid progress on vaccination, the airport calls for a “significant simplification of the ‘traffic light’ system” at the end of June, which would allow fully vaccinated people to travel without restrictions.
Last month, Heathrow Airport warned that travellers returning to the UK may face six-hour queues when international travel restarts due to the thorough checks of paperwork at border control. In response to this, the airport has stated that until border checks are automated, every desk should be staffed at peak times to “avoid unacceptable queue times at immigration”.
Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye, commented:
“The Government’s green list is very welcome, but they need to expand it massively in the next few weeks to include other low risk markets such as the United States, and remove the need for fully vaccinated passengers to take two expensive PCR tests. Border Force’s claims that “long queues in immigration are inevitable” smack of complacency – they are completely avoidable if Ministers ensure that all desks are staffed at peak times.”
Since the announcement of the green list countries, airlines have ramped up frequencies to ‘green’ countries, with Virgin Atlantic more than tripling the number of flights on its Heathrow-Tel Aviv route while British Airways is launching flights from Newcastle to Faro later this month.