Airport testing teams are standing idle while our Government sits on its hands – Telegraph.co.uk

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These are the toughest times in the history of the aviation industry. Coronavirus has hit our business hard, and the sector is fighting for its very survival. British Airways can survive, but only if the Government will work with us, rather than against us. 

In March, April and May we flew just five per cent of our schedule. Six months into the pandemic and we are still flying just 30 per cent. The world remains largely closed and all the indications are that the aviation industry will take years to recover. Business links like London and New York – traditionally one of the busiest airline routes in the world – have been decimated, stifling economic growth.

Like every other airline around the world, we are adapting. We have to. I cannot ignore the situation Covid-19 has created and I deeply regret that too many loyal and hardworking British Airways colleagues are losing their jobs as a consequence.

What is hugely frustrating is that we know people want to travel, to fly, whether to see friends or family, to see business contacts face-to-face or to recharge on the beach, but without a rigorous, reliable Coronavirus testing programme – together with a sensible approach to quarantine – people’s plans are being unnecessarily grounded. 

Safeguarding people’s health must always be the top priority, but as we wrote to the Prime Minister this week, the Government needs to take action now, before even more jobs are lost. 

Every aircraft at Heathrow supports 300 jobs in the supply chain. Every aircraft grounded because customers cannot easily travel puts those jobs at risk. Every business unable to make essential connections with contacts around the world puts Global Britain at risk.

British scientists are leading the way in developing reliable Coronavirus tests which could be used to enable the UK to start trading effectively again. Airports like our home Heathrow have testing stations set up and ready to go, but their teams are standing idle waiting while our Government sits on its hands.

Thirty other countries have introduced airport testing to unlock the problem, so my question to the Government is, why can’t we?

Ministers must work with international partners to agree on a universal Arrivals and Departures testing process. Just as safety agreements are mutually recognised internationally, so should health standards.

We are calling for the Government to take action in the following areas to support recovery in aviation: 

  • An immediate testing trial – for example from London to New York  to provide real-world data to give Ministers reassurance.
  • A greater list of regional travel corridors beyond the ‘islands’ policy announced this week, and to include the USA. We need to open up the UK to as many destinations as possible.     
  • An Air Passenger Duty waiver for the next 12 months. This would have a similar impact to the Eat Out to Help Out scheme for the hospitality industry to boost passenger demand, protect regional connectivity and protect jobs right across the UK. 

I am doing everything in my power to keep British Airways flying. Others are doing the same. But we need help. We need ministers to take the lead on the global stage so that we can open up the world again. To get our aircraft back into the sky safely, and our industry on its way to some form of recovery.

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