Thursday 7 January 2021 11:56 am

Khan pushes for airport testing, while airport boss wants taxpayers to foot bill

London Southend airport has called on the government to pay for pre-departure coronavirus tests once the latest restrictions are lifted to get the UK’s airlines flying again. 

It came on the same day that London Mayor Sadiq Khan wrote to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps pushing for increased testing and other measures at the capital’s airports.

Many European countries require incoming passengers to show a negative coronavirus test in order to be let into the country.

At the moment, there is no such requirement in the UK, although such measures are reportedly set to be announced imminently. 

Khan wrote: “We now urgently need much stronger procedures, such as have been introduced by many other countries, to be applied much more widely, if we are to contain these risks, including the introduction of new strains.”

Glyn Jones, the chief executive of London Southend, said that it was important for there to be consistent rules across the continent to give passengers confidence to fly.

He said: “London Southend Airport will call on government to provide a state funded ‘test before take-off’ standardised process once the lock down has ended in order to get Britain moving again.

“The Government has a duty of care to citizens of the UK to ensure borders are protected without restricting freedom to travel. 

“People need to know there is a consistent, safe approach across ports and clear guidance which aligns with Europe. These things are vital if we are going to give people the confidence they need to travel to and from the UK this Summer.

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“Government funded tests ensure safety, promote a unified approach and supports the industry. This investment could help avoid potential longer-term damage to the aviation industry and avoid higher long term costs.”

Jones has previously warned that the cost of taking private Covid tests – which can be up to £120 – could make travel impossible for some people.

“If the tests aren’t affordable, there is a risk that air travel will de-democratised”, he told City A.M..

Under the current lockdown, people cannot travel overseas unless they have legal permission to do so. 

Jones’ calls came as several airlines announced that they were reducing their schedules for the coming months in response to the new restrictions.

This morning Ryanair and Wizz Air joined BA and Easyjet in announcing changes to their services, raising the prospect of yet more financial pain for the battered industry. 

Aviation bodies have been calling for additional government support for months in order to ease the damage done by a record drop-off in airline passengers.

Despite an initial promise of sector specific support, ministers have done little thus far to assuage their plight.