Wednesday 9 September 2020 12:01 am

Business leaders back switch to airport testing

The majority of UK business leaders believe the government should scrap the current quarantine regime on air travel and replace it with airport testing, new data has shown.

According to a survey by London City Airport, 71 per cent of senior executives think that removing the current restrictions in favour of a testing programme would give firms confidence to begin travelling again.

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A further 64 per cent of respondents said that air travel was important for the future of their businesses, with 48 per cent saying the restrictions were the main obstacle to business travel restarting properly.

Robert Sinclair, London City Airport’s chief executive, said: “Aviation is vital for London’s economy. It brings tourists and business people from all over the world to our city and they, in turn, benefit the London economy by spending in our hotels, restaurants, pubs, theatres, and across the Transport for London network. 

“As our research shows the demand among business leaders to continue flying remains strong and getting them back into London will be a crucial element in our recovery.”

In recent weeks, the UK travel and aviation sector has been united in its calls for the government to implement an airport testing regime in order to get global air travel going again.

Industry representatives point to countries such as Germany, Greece, and Iceland as examples of how effective such a policy can be.

On Sunday the Labour Party said that ministers should review the impact switching to such a system would have, although the government has continued to insist that airport testing is not a “silver bullet” for the problem.

Ministers have however indicated that they are working on ways to reduce the amount of time people have to spend in isolation, with tests after eight days one possible solution.

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Jeremy Rees, chief executive of events venue Excel London, said that implementing airport testing would be a “much needed shot in the arm” for business.

Tom Thackray, director of infrastructure and energy at business body the CBI, said the step was “essential” if the government was serious about getting passengers flying safely again.

Lawmakers will debate the issue in parliament on Thursday, with Tory backbenchers widely expected to voice their support for the policy shift.

The new data comes after ministers imposed quarantine restrictions on seven Greek islands, raising hopes from some quarters that it might shift to a regional approach.

However, not everyone was as optimistic about the change of tack, with Kuoni boss Derek Jones labelling it a “Pyrrhic victory”.

According to the holiday firm’s UK managing director, the step “adds complexity and solves nothing”. 

Read more: UK working on reducing quarantine restrictions, says Matt Hancock

“We need a comprehensive testing regime for all UK arrivals”, he added. “Nothing else will make a difference”. 

Global aviation body IATA boss Alexandre de Juniac has also added his voice to the calls, telling the Telegraph that the “stop-start” quarantine scheme had not been “successful” and was “vaporising jobs”.