Manchester Airport calls for simplification of UK travel system

Government figures show UK aviation is the worst hit sector, more than 90% down on pre-pandemic levels   

Manchester Airport is pressing the UK Government to introduce a simplified travel system involving a two-tier arrangement where countries are made open for travel by default. 

The system would enable travellers to visit the majority of international markets while only those which pose a significant threat to public health from new variants, such as those on the current ‘red travel’ list, would be subject to testing and quarantine restrictions. 

Manchester Airport
Photo Manchester Airport (MAG)

Mandatory PCR testing has been controversial since its introduction as a requirement for travelling abroad and the airport sees ending mandatory testing for fully vaccinated passengers would remove a costly and unnecessary barrier to travel and bring the UK’s travel policy in line with the rest of Europe.   

Manchester Airport Group (MAG), the operator of Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports has seen passenger numbers down 68.1% on the same month in 2019, representing a significant loss of business at what would ordinarily be the busiest time of the year for aviation.  

This slow recovery is despite the backdrop of more than 80% of the UK’s adult population having received a double vaccination and MAG is now calling on the UK Government to implement new travel rules in its next review on October 1. 

Charlie Cornish, MAG CEO, said: “The UK’s over-cautious and unnecessarily complex traffic light system is confusing to customers and places needless barriers in the way of them booking travel. The impact that is having on our sector is clear, with traffic levels recovering at a much greater rate across Europe than here in the UK. Meanwhile, the rest of the economy has been opened-up to those who are double-jabbed, leaving travel as the only sector whose recovery is being held back for no logical reason. A simpler, more sensible approach to international travel must be adopted as soon as possible.” 

MAG has also released its traffic statistics for August which shows it served around 1.5m passengers in the last three months compared to over 9.4m in the same three months in 2019.  

The group hopes the “changes would allow for the fuller and more sustainable recovery [that] UK aviation requires as it closes the door on two lost summer periods.”