Heathrow CEO predicts future travel rules
Despite Priti Patel saying i”t’s far too early” to book holidays today, there has been some interesting commentary from the Chief executive of Heathrow Airport John Holland-Kaye. Personally, I do not feel that the government should be telling people that it is too early to book holidays. For a start, it is incredibly damaging to the travel industry which is already on its knees. Secondly, she didn’t even give a time frame. I think even the most pessimistic would think they are probably safe if you book for 2022! What I believe the government should be advising is to exercise caution if booking and make sure it’s refundable or changeable. Paying by credit card is also sensible as it gives an extra layer of protection.
Today Heathrow airport presented its results for 2020. The airport made an annual loss of £2bn. Passenger numbers collapsed to 22.1m, more than half of whom travelled in January and February 2020. Overall revenue fell 62% to £1.2bn and passenger numbers fell to those of the 1970s. The travel industry has had little help compared to many other countries and Heathrow is now calling on the government to provide more support by providing 100% business rates relief, extending the furlough scheme, and reversing the tourist tax.
Sadly the government recently decided to get rid of most duty-free shopping in airports and ports apart from alcohol and tobacco. Their excuse was “concerns that the tax-concession is not always passed on to consumers in the airport”. This also makes the UK a less attractive destination for shoppers as they will no longer be able to claim the tax back on goods bought in the UK. Understandably Heathrow are calling for this decision to be reversed.
In a series of interviews this morning Mr Holland-Kaye gave some interesting insights into how he saw foreign travel being restarted. Although it sounds like it could be an enormously complicated task, IATA already has a vaccine passport that will store vaccine and test data. This is currently being trialled by several airlines. Having this sort of technology will be crucial to restarting travel and I only hope the government goes with a proven existing solution rather than trying to implement its own version.
He then went on to talk about a red, amber, green system which sounds extremely sensible. Hopefully, it will be more stable than last year’s corridors as with vaccine rollouts cases should be mainly falling rather than rising.
Talking to BBC News he said,
“For the aviation sector, we can start to plan ahead for 17 May to make sure we’ve got the people and the planes in place so that we can get, not just people on their holidays, but also start to get British businesses moving again,” he said.
Mr Holland-Kaye said it was likely that travel to the UK from “low-risk” countries such as New Zealand and Singapore would not require a Covid test, “medium-risk” countries where passengers would need a test, and “high risk” countries would require tougher passenger controls such as quarantining.