Passenger slump continues at Stansted Airport as MAG chief executive Charlie Cornish lobbies Government
Summer passenger numbers at Stansted Airport were just a quarter of their pre-pandemic level, prompting a renewed plea to the Government to ease travel restrictions.
The Uttlesford hub served little more than 2.18 million passengers in the three months June to August – 26% of the near 8.3 million over the same quarter in 2019.
This sluggish recovery is despite more than 80% of the adult population being double-vaccinated, compared to a year earlier when the immunisation programme was not even under way.
MAG – the UK's largest airport group, which owns and operates Stansted, Manchester and East Midlands airports – reported that its passenger numbers for August were 68.1% down on the same month in 2019.
ONS (Office for National Statistics) data from June showed that aviation remains the worst-hit UK sector, with activity still more than 90% down on pre-pandemic levels, whereas the food and entertainment sectors have seen a steady increase in business over recent months.
MAG says the UK's traffic light system must be reformed urgently – and ahead of the scheduled October 1 review date – to protect the travel sector through the winter season and restore consumer confidence now for bookings next summer.
MAG chief executive Charlie Cornish said: "Fully-vaccinated British residents can only look on in envy as people across Europe enjoy the freedom to travel easily to low-risk holiday destinations.
"With restrictions almost entirely removed across the UK, now is the time to give people back those freedoms to explore, relax and visit loved ones.
"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, and Government has the opportunity to deliver that in response to proposals put forward by MAG and others in our sector in the weeks ahead."
MAG wants the Government to bring in a simplified two-tier system and remove mandatory testing for fully vaccinated arrivals from countries without new, concerning Covid-19 variants.
It argues that a two-tier system would see the majority of international markets open for travel as the default, with only those countries which pose a significant public health risk from new variants subject to travel restrictions such as testing and quarantine periods. The company is also arguing for an end to mandatory PCR testing for fully vaccinated passengers.
The latest Government-published data shows that less than 30% of positive test results are actually sequenced to identify variants.