Heathrow Airport boss explains the 2 things that will need to happen before travel goes back to normal – My London
Despite the increase in coronavirus cases across the UK, airport bosses are still planning ways to get people travelling abroad again.
The government has signalled it could allow a Covid testing trial to be launched at airports sometime this month, and there has been talk that flights to New York could resume as soon as November.
John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow Airport’s chief executive, told Travel Weekly: “We’ve heard from the Prime Minister that he hopes to go to a trial in the second half of October.”
He added: “There is consensus that testing is the answer to getting people flying, that testing before departure is the better way of doing it and that we need a common international standard.
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“We’ve put lots in place to make sure we can be ready to go, [but] we don’t know whether airport testing will be part of the solution. The government isn’t comfortable with a single test on arrival because if you’ve only just contracted the disease, you may not show up on a test.”
Seniors at Heathrow have said that there are two things that need to happen before things can get back to normal – or at least a new normal.
One of them is a shorter quarantine on arrival from a high-risk country, with a test being taken by travellers after five or seven days as symptoms will likely have shown by then.
This is a measure that some other countries are already using so it’s entirely feasible.
The idea is that by forcing people to self-isolate for 14 days on return to the UK many are put off travelling, however if they only have to quarantine for half that time they may be willing to fly.
The other proposal is more complicated, but would see people tested before they get on a plane.
While this may seem straightforward, the issue would be ensuring there is a consistent standard of testing between countries.
Tests would cost £150 each, so would also be too expensive for many.
A senior airline source said: “There are things developing behind the scenes. If we have a decision in October, there is no reason a trial couldn’t be in place for November.”
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However, airlines would prefer a government test regime rather than a privately financed one like Heathrow’s.
The source said: “We don’t want private solutions with differing tests and differing costs. That would be complicated.
“This has to be integrated with the government test-and-trace system.”