Stansted Airport prepares to welcome back more passengers as non-essential international travel resumes on Monday
Portugal is Stansted Airport's only destination on the Government's green list for international travel from Monday (May 17).
Managing director Steve Griffiths said: "The resumption of international travel and launch of the green list is an important step to easing Covid-19 restrictions, and Monday will be an important milestone for us as we begin to welcome more passengers back to the airport."
Passenger numbers at Stansted have slumped by almost 90% during the coronavirus pandemic. The hub's traveller total has tumbled from just under 28.4 million in the 12 months to March 2020 to 3 million in the year to March 2021. March saw 44,259 passengers at Stansted compared with over 800,000 last March – a 95% drop.
The current green list countries and territories are: Portugal including the Azores and Madeira, Israel, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Iceland, Faroe Islands, Gibraltar, Falkland Islands, South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, and St Helena, Tristan da Cunha and Ascension Island.
Under the Government's traffic light system, people returning from those places will have to take a test pre-departure and another PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test within two days of landing.
Those returning from 'amber list' countries are also required to self-isolate for 10 days and take an extra PCR test, while those coming back from 'red list' locations have to book a Government-approved hotel quarantine package.
All passengers arriving in the UK, regardless of their destination, need to complete a mandatory passenger locator form pre-travel.
Stansted owner Manchester Airports Group (MAG) says plotting a path to restriction-free travel is vital to full revival of the UK's ailing aviation sector. A key demand is eliminating the need for travellers to take expensive PCR tests on their return from abroad.
MAG – which also owns Manchester and East Midlands airports – said that the framework should be improved urgently to include a fourth, restriction-free category capitalising on the success of the UK's vaccination programme.
Mr Griffiths said: "We will continue to work closely with Government to unlock a more meaningful restart for international travel, by taking advantage of the UK's vaccination programme to increase the number of countries on the green list and work towards the removal of restrictions altogether over time."
He added: "As we start the road to recovery, we will continue to work closely with all our partners across the airport to ensure passengers have the best possible experience as they fly off on well-earned holidays or finally get to see family and friends."
A limited number of food outlets and shops at the airport will open from Monday.
Boots and WH Smith will be operating both landside and airside. They are joined landside by ICE (International Currency Exchange) and airside by Pret A Manger, WDF (World Duty Free) and WDF Express, Leon, Accessorize, JD Sports, Hamleys, Harris & Hoole and Cabin, with more preparing to resume in coming weeks in line with demand.
Stansted Express trains are running half-hourly to London Liverpool Street and National Express's A9 coach service to Stratford resumes on Monday. On-airport car parking options are currently limited.
To help keep passengers safe, the airport has introduced enhanced cleaning, installed perspex screens in customer-facing areas and sanitiser stations, and insists on mandatory face coverings, but social distancing may not always be possible.
Mr Griffiths said: "We understand many people haven't flown in a long time, but our passengers can be reassured we have committed to implementing the highest-quality Covid-19 safety measures.
"Assisted by the CAA and Public Health England, we recently received recognition for the measures we have implemented in line with guidance set out by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
"This recognition is a great testament and credit to the hard work of our teams across the business to keep our passengers and colleagues safe and ensure we're ready for the restart of international travel."