Stansted Airport's boss raps PCR testing rules as July passenger traffic tumbles 75% in two years
Passengers numbers at Stansted Airport in July were down 75% on the same month in 2019.
The business’s managing director, Steve Griffiths, said the UK’s traffic light system and travel restrictions meant the country’s aviation sector was recovering at just half the rate of the rest of Europe.
Figures published on Friday (August 13) show the airport served 690,366 passengers in July compared with 2,758,524 in July 2019, though last month's total was up 47.4% on July 2020. Stansted's rolling 12-month passenger total to the end of July was 3,778,473, down 77.9% on the 17,067,646 to the end of July 2020.
Since the Government’s review of the traffic light system on August 4 – which saw more countries added to the green and amber lists – volumes have picked up slightly but remain significantly below pre-pandemic levels.
With just three weeks of the school summer holidays remaining, Mr Griffiths said: “While it's encouraging that more people are taking the opportunity to go on holiday or visit friends and family overseas, we're still yet to see a meaningful recovery in international travel.
“We won’t see a proper sustained recovery until the UK overhauls its costly and restrictive travel regime, which is out of step with the rest of Europe.
"UK passengers continue to be subjected to onerous and expensive PCR testing on the basis they will be sequenced to protect the UK from variants of concern, but it's clear this isn't happening.
“Passengers – especially those who are fully vaccinated – will be right to question why they're forced to pay the extra cost for tests which aren't being used in the way we were told they would be.
“Meanwhile, the recovery of our sector – which supports millions of jobs of billions of pounds in economic value – continues to lag significantly behind the rest of Europe as a result of excessive restrictions in place in the UK.
“We need a simple and sustainable system for travel which people can understand and that is proportionate to the public health position here in the UK. The Government must act urgently to review the system and re-evaluate the need for expensive PCR tests.”
Stansted’s latest traffic figures come as data from Airports Council International – Europe has laid bare the extent to which the UK is falling behind the rest of the continent when it comes to the revival of international travel. Figures show Europe’s airports have recovered to around 59% of pre-pandemic levels compared to just 28% in the UK.
The UK’s blanket requirement for PCR testing and pre-departure testing differs dramatically to the approach taken by most European countries, which are allowing fully vaccinated passengers to travel between low-risk destinations without having to take any tests.
The Government has said PCR testing is needed to enable genomic sequencing to take place to identify variants of concern, but the latest official data shows only around 5% are actually being sent for sequencing.