The number of passengers at one of the country’s most important airports fell by more than 99 percent in March compared to previous years. This underscores the dramatic impact of UK government restrictions on the travel industry.
The blatant message came from the Manchester Airports Group, which operates Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports. She reported that passenger numbers fell 90 percent in the first 12 months of the coronavirus pandemic.
It called for closer collaboration between governments to track new Covid-19 variants instead of relying on costly PCR testing, and called for the creation of a new restriction-free travel category to aid recovery.
Currently, the UK government is proposing that all passengers – including those returning from the lowest risk “green” destinations – should have a PCR test to collect data that will help with genome sequencing.
MAG said this could be avoided if governments worked together on sequencing and sharing data on variants.
The test requirement is part of the “traffic light” framework announced last week by the Global Travel Taskforce, in which countries are classified as red, amber or green based on the Covid risk.
MAG said there was an urgent need to improve the framework to include a fourth, restriction-free category, benefiting from the success of the UK’s world-leading immunization program.
This would save passengers significant personal expenses and give the UK aviation sector the much-needed confidence ahead of a critical summer season.
The dramatic downturn in aviation was evident in MAG’s annual passenger numbers, which showed that MAG served 93 percent fewer passengers in March 2021, compared to March 2020, and that its rolling 12-month passenger count was down 89 percent.
In March 2019, MAG served more than four million passengers compared to March 2021 when 140,000 passengers were carried – a decrease of 97 percent.
Manchester Airport carried just 95,798 passengers in March 2021, 89.8 percent fewer than the 942,900 it had handled 12 months earlier. In Stansted there were 44,259 in March, compared to over 800,000 in the previous year – a decrease of 95 percent.
The handled East Midlands Airport served only 71 passengers for the whole of March this year, up from 106,529 in 2020.
Charlie Cornish, CEO of MAG, said: “The UK government is one of the first to propose a system to allow international travel to resume and should be welcomed for taking the lead.
“After more than a year of near-total closure – and with so many jobs and so much economic value – it is really important that we get people moving again as soon as it is safe to do so.”
“We now need the government to confirm the May 17th start date as soon as possible along with the list of countries that fall into each traffic light category.”
Mr Cornish added, “But the price associated with testing will hold back the recovery and hamper the sector’s ability to fuel the UK’s economic recovery as a whole.”
“If we can trust data from other countries and force people to spend money on expensive PCR tests to get the same information, it would be a colossal waste of everyone’s money.
“The government should also consider the UK’s leading global immunization program to remove other barriers to getting to as many destinations as possible.”