MAG calls for roadmap to restriction-free travel

The airport operator wants to eliminate the need for testing to certain countries, enabling air travel to resume

Manchester Airport Group (MAG) has stressed that planning a path to allow for restriction-free travel is essential for the revival of the UK’s aviation sector.

The organisation published the latest traffic figures which show it faced a 90% decline in passenger numbers over the first 12 months of the pandemic.

According to MAG, the UK and international governments should be working together to share the necessary information regarding the new variants of Covid-19 and producing a strategy to eliminate the need for PCR tests.

Currently, it has been proposed that all passengers should have to present a negative result upon arrival, even when travelling from low-risk areas. This is so data can be collected to help with genomic sequencing.

MAG Airports
Photo MAG Airports

Comparatively, the group have said that this precaution could be avoided if governments were to share data on the variants.

The testing requirement is part of the Global Travel Taskforce’s ‘traffic light’ initiative, which labels countries as red, amber or green depending on the risk it poses. It is set to begin on May 17, when non-essential travel can resume.

However, MAG has suggested that the framework should be improved with the addition of a fourth category with no restrictions – based on the success of the UK’s vaccination programme.

By doing this, the personal cost of testing would be removed, and passenger confidence should begin to recover, the airport group have stated.

Charlie Cornish, CEO of MAG, believes that after a year of almost “total shutdown” it is vital that the industry should restart as soon as it is safe to do so.

“The requirement to complete a PCR test on return from even the safest countries adds potentially unnecessary cost and the Government’s attention must now turn to finding smarter and more affordable ways to manage the risk posed by new variants of concern.

“COVID-19 is a global problem and requires a coordinated international response, not just in bringing the pandemic under control, but in developing solutions to enable a return to restriction-free travel between countries where there is a lower level of risk,” he added.

In March 2019, the company served more than four million customers – during the same period this year has seen just 140,000.