Wednesday 29 July 2020 8:17 am

Heathrow airport accuses government of playing 'quarantine roulette'

Heathrow airport has accused the government of “playing a game of quarantine roulette” without an operational testing system, as the transport hub reported a record loss of more than £1bn for the first half of the year during the pandemic.

The airport saw a 96 per cent slump in passenger numbers for the three months to 30 June, as aviation ground to a standstill amid global lockdowns during the pandemic. 

Read more: Foreign Office warns against all but essential travel to Spanish isles

Heathrow reported a loss before tax of £1.06bn for the first half of 2020, down from a profit of £7m in the same period last year.

“Today’s results should serve as a clarion call for the government — the UK needs a passenger testing regime and fast,” said John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow airport.

“Without it, Britain is just playing a game of quarantine roulette.”

The Heathrow chief added that “testing offers a way to safely open up travel and trade to some of the UK’s biggest markets which currently remain closed”. 

Holland-Kaye drew comparisons with France and Germany as just some of the 20 countries conducting coronavirus tests at airport, which the Heathrow boss said could be rolled out at a cost of just £150.

“Our European competitors are racing ahead with passenger testing, if the UK doesn’t act soon, global Britain will be nothing more than a campaign slogan.”

Airlines have warned that the current 14-day quarantine period for travellers returning to the UK from Spain will further cripple the ailing travel industry.

Read more: Germany advises against travel to Spain’s virus-hit regions

The government on Sunday U-turned on an air bridge secured with Spain last month after infection rates in the country rose above 1.

Tour operator Jet2 yesterday suspended flights and holidays to a raft of Spanish islands following the Foreign Office announcement that Brits should avoid travelling to them.

Tui also said it will cancel all package holidays to mainland Spain until 9 August and said customers will be contacted to discuss options.

Before the Open: Get the jump on the markets with our early morning newsletter