Manchester Airports Group (MAG) has called on the UK government to urgently review its new travel restrictions, in light of the 10-20% reduction in passenger numbers since the introduction of Day 2 PCR testing .
Day 2 PCR testing was announced to the UK aviation industry on November 27, 2021, as an additional measure against the Omicron variant, alongside pre-departure testing already in place. According to MAG group data, this new rule has increased the already substantial impact that Covid-19 has had on each of its airports: Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands. MAG airports handled 6.6 million passengers from April 1 to September 30, 2021, compared to 36.4 million for the same period in 2019. The loss of these 29.8 million passengers led the group to a declared loss. of Â£ 75.7 million (US $ 99.9 million) before interest and tax during the six-month period. In contrast, the group made a profit of 172.7 million pounds sterling (227.9 million US dollars) for the same six months in 2019. Although the group saw its revenues increase by 64.9 million pounds sterling (US $ 85.6 million), that figure was down 70% over the same period two years ago. These figures showed that MAG’s passenger numbers remained 82% below pre-pandemic levels during this period, despite the first signs of recovery.
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Charlie Cornish, CEO of MAG, said: âThe first half of this year tells about how travel restrictions have held back the recovery of UK aviation, especially relative to the rest of Europe. As restrictions have eased, passenger numbers have steadily increased at our three airports. The reintroduction of costly and inconvenient travel test requirements created additional uncertainty and delayed our recovery. The government has spoken openly about the damage these restrictions are causing to the travel industry, but neither it nor the opposition has recognized the critical need to support our industry in return.
These early signs of recovery – ahead of the tightening of travel restrictions at the end of November – included an increase in passenger volumes across the group and resulted mainly from the resumption of leisure travel to the United States. Passenger volume in November was 58% of 2019 figures, the closest to pre-pandemic levels.
In total, MAG welcomed 2.7 million passengers in October 2021, which was the first month since February 2020 in which Manchester Airport and London Stansted Airport each served more than one million passengers. The delayed opening by Manchester Airport of its new Terminal 2 extension in July 2021 contributed to this increase in passenger volume. London Stansted Airport handled 3.5 million passengers between April and September, up 59% from last year. In September, this airport saw the return of 43% of its pre-pandemic traffic. Likewise, East Midlands Airport has seen demand for its popular European holiday destinations return as restrictions have eased, with numbers up 33% from 2020.
The resumption of leisure travel to the United States on November 8 also looked positive for Manchester Airport’s long-haul network, following the return of long-haul services to the Middle East, Africa and Canada. earlier in the year. With this change, Virgin Atlantic services to New York, Orlando and Atlanta resumed, as did Singapore Airlines service to Houston. This change also led to the completion of the Aer Lingus base for direct long-haul services to Barbados and the United States at Manchester Airport in December.
Therefore, when Sajid Javid, Britain’s Health Secretary, urged the government to complete its review of these measures as soon as possible, the MAG group welcomed the announcement – eager to build on these early signs of recovery. In particular, he adopted Javid’s Dec. 8 statement that there was “less need to have travel restrictions at all” once Omicron becomes the dominant variant.
Cornish said: âAs a company we will always do our part to protect public health, but we also need these temporary measures removed when they are no longer worth the effort. These restrictions may have slowed the arrival of Omicron, but it is now spreading in the community, and the government urgently needs to examine whether the rapidly diminishing benefits of testing justify the damage it is causing to consumer confidence. . MAG, and the UK travel industry as a whole, can be confident of a strong recovery when travel restrictions are lifted. All we ask is to be able to plan our recovery and to have the same chance that all other sectors were given by the national roadmap earlier this year. “