The government is facing mounting pressure to roll out large scale coronavirus testing at airports after new research showed reduced travel between the UK and US could cost the British economy upwards of £11bn this year.
A new report commissioned by Heathrow Airport, Airlines UK, British Airways owner International Airlines Group (IAG) and aviation services firm Collision Group found that a collapse in travel across the Atlantic was having a “major impact” on the aviation industry.
The study by consultant York Aviation said the slump in long-haul flights between the two regions has had a “devastating” impact on the British economy and could cost at least £11bn by the end of the year.
Plane tickets between the UK and US plummeted 92 per cent in April compared with the same period last year, the report found, with capacity still down 85 per cent in September.
Earlier this month, Department for Transport (DfT) ministers entered talks with their US counterparts over a trial testing programme between London and New York in a bid to boost travel between the two capitals, which is normally the world’s busiest long-haul route.
Under the proposed scheme, passengers would be tested for coronavirus on departure or arrival, followed by a second test up to five days later. Passengers who tested negative both times would be exempted from current two-week quarantine restrictions.
Brits are currently banned from entering the US, while arrivals to the UK from America are required to self-isolate for a fortnight.
Heathrow Airport is currently capable of carrying out 13,000 tests a day using PCR tests, which detect of Covid-19 via a saliva swab.
John Holland Kaye, Heathrow chief executive said today’s report marked “a stark warning that action is needed immediately to safely open up connections with our key trading partners in the US”.
He told the Times: “We can start with flights to New York, a city where infection rates are now lower than here, and which is the UK’s most valuable route. PCR testing in private labs, both pre-flight and on arrival, would ensure there is no risk of importing Covid and could pave the way to a common international standard for aviation testing.”
It comes as UK airlines received a hammer blow this morning following announcements by the UK’s top scientists this morning that the rate of coronavirus infections is rapidly increasing.
Chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance today warned that the UK could see 50,000 new coronavirus infections each day by 13 October if fresh restrictions are not adhered to.
IAG shares slumped 13.5 per cent to 95.7p on the news, amid mounting fears that a spike in cases will see tighter curbs on international travel. Easyjet shares shed 7.9 per cent to 496.8p, while Ryanair shares fell 6.9 per cent.