Heathrow urges UK government to scrap quarantine rules before Christmas

Passengers from red list countries have to spend 10 days in a hotel upon arrival in Britain

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London’s Heathrow Airport is leading calls for the UK government to roll back travel restrictions to pave the way for family reunions in time for Christmas.

Bosses want to see ministers alter the hotel quarantine system for passengers arriving from red list countries to give them the option of self-isolating at home.

CEO of Britain’s busiest airport, John Holland-Kaye, said the move would offer a much-needed boost to the aviation sector, increase consumer confidence and open up thousands of new jobs.

Despite the reopening of the US-UK travel corridor in November, Heathrow says the imposition of strict new red list rules due to Omicron have caused demand to plummet by 60 per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels.

The airport has been hit by a high level of cancellations by business travellers concerned about the prospect of being stranded overseas due to pre-departure testing.

The UK government said everyone coming in to England must show proof of a negative lateral flow or PCR test. The devolved administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales make their own Covid-19 rules.

The UK government has introduced a rule that says travellers must show proof of a recent negative Covid-19 test upon entry. (Photo by Andy Buchanan / AFP)

Heathrow said if the government drops restrictions as soon as it is safe to do so it will send a strong message to employers at the west London hub to start recruiting and training thousands of people ahead of the summer season.

“By allowing Brits to isolate at home, ministers can make sure they are reunited with their loved ones this Christmas,” said Mr Holland-Kaye.

“It would send a strong signal that restrictions on travel will be removed as soon as safely possible to give passengers the confidence to book for 2022, opening up thousands of new jobs for local people at Heathrow. Let’s reunite families for Christmas.”

Heathrow forecasts a slow start to 2022, finishing next year with around 45 million passengers – just over half of the airport’s pre-pandemic levels.

This aligns closely with the forecast published by the Civil Aviation Authority, the UK’s aviation regulator. IATA, the international trade body representing airlines, has also predicted global passenger numbers in 2022 will be about 60 per cent of 2019 levels.

Heathrow said it could not expect the sector to fully bounce back from the battering it took during the pandemic until all travel restrictions, including testing rules, are removed in countries that it serves.

It said consumers also needed to be given assurances from governments that new curbs would not be imposed to enable people to have the confidence to book trips with peace of mind.

On Thursday a High Court judge blocked a legal bid to challenge the government's mandatory quarantine policy.

Claimants had argued it was an infringement on their human rights to have to stay in a hotel room for 10 days after arriving from a red list nation.

But the judge concluded there is an “element of choice” for travellers wishing to go to countries on the red list.

Updated: December 11, 2021, 2:17 PM