Given the amount of time we’ve spent in front of our TVs over the past few months, you’ll have no doubt seen the Government’s Brexit commercial which tells us to get prepared and get going for the UK’s new start.
It ends, rather beautifully, with an aircraft taking off, presumably full of representatives from Britain’s amazing business community ready to do deals in Europe and across the world.
The advert is spot on in identifying that flying will be critical to realising Britain’s big, bold and (hopefully) prosperous future once we have left the EU.
However, as many of you will know first-hand from trying to book a summer holiday this year, the threat of quarantine now looms over every journey. Unless we learn to live with risk and embrace a more practical, sensible approach to testing, then 2021 could be as challenging as 2020.
The stakes could not be much higher. A quick glance around central London tells you all you need to know. In fact, London has arguably been hit hardest. Current estimates have somewhere between only 10 to 30 percent of the workforce back in the city and, in line with demand, shops, restaurants and other amenities remain closed. Footfall at London attractions is down around 90 percent and hotel occupancy is only around the 20 percent mark with few forward bookings.
Unfortunately, it’s a similar story at City Airport with traffic significantly down on last year and quarantine continuing to impact airline plans and route restart dates.
We all want London to not only be open, but to thrive again. To stand a chance of clawing back the £15.6bn that was spent by overseas visitors in the Capital last year or the 10 million who flocked to the Square Mile alone to do business, we need to find a way of managing risk that enables people to travel again and come back to London.
In the absence of a vaccine for the foreseeable future, accepting a semi-regular testing regime looks like the best solution. It’s already in place in other countries and could be deployed here, including at airports.
For example, instead of arriving at London City on a KLM flight from Amsterdam and quarantining for 14 days, we could substantially reduce that period by being tested before you fly and within a few days of arriving into London.
Regular testing will allow us to reclaim more of our old lives back, give Londoners confidence – whether in the office or in our pubs and bars – that it’s OK to interact again, and send a signal to the world that we’re ready, once again, to be the most creative, innovative and influential city in the world.
What we need now is for the Government to work with partner countries and, in particular, the business community, so we can quickly agree an approach and methodology to testing. Even an interim solution, while the Government perfects its national roll out of track and trace, can re-open key routes and give people the confidence to travel to and from our city.
It’s certainly my hope that progress will be made on these matters soon so we at LCY can welcome even more of you back by offering safe, careful and, crucially, speedy journeys through our airport to destinations across the UK and Europe.
Everybody loves a comeback, and London’s could be glorious, so long as we learn to manage and live with the risk that COVID-19 has inserted into our lives. Amongst the gloom there are some green shoots to suggest this is possible. Kids have returned to school successfully it seems, restaurants and bars are open, events and conferences can restart from October 1st and crowds are starting to be allowed back in to sports stadiums. We at London City Airport are welcoming back more services, including an important connection with Belfast City which recommenced today with British Airways. So, some reasons to be cheerful, and let’s hope there are many more in the weeks and months to come.