MAG calls on Government to deliver on pledge to remove double-testing requirements, as latest figures show impact on demand for travel
The Government must act to kickstart the recovery of the aviation sector by following through on its commitment to remove remaining travel testing requirements once the Omicron variant becomes dominant in the UK.
That was the message delivered by Manchester Airports Group (MAG) after the Health Secretary announced that all 11 countries will be removed from the red list from 4am on 15th December on the grounds it is not effective in slowing the arrival of the variant.
MAG is calling on the Government to extend this proportionate and positive approach to lift the requirement for all international arriving passengers to take both a pre-departure test and a Day 2 PCR test.
MAG made the call, as it revealed passenger numbers across its three airports had climbed to an average of 58% of 2019 levels across November, before the introduction of the latest measures.
That represented the highest proportion of pre-pandemic traffic the Group has seen, providing a clear indication of the pent-up demand for international travel among the British public.
During the final week of November, passenger numbers across MAG airports peaked at 61% of 2019 levels, compared with only 44% in the latest week.
But MAG – which operates Manchester, London Stansted and East Midlands airports – said the re-imposition of the Day 2 and pre-departure testing requirements had caused passenger numbers to fall by more than one-quarter in the two weeks since then.
MAG served 2.2 million passengers in November, which was the second consecutive month of less onerous travel restrictions. November also saw the reopening of leisure travel between the UK and US after 20 months, with direct services to New York, Orlando and Houston all operating again from Manchester Airport.
The number of passengers served in November was more than 20% higher than in September, demonstrating the demand for international travel and that cost, inconvenience and uncertainty of restrictions were the primary barrier for passengers over the summer months, where traffic remained 80% down on 2019 levels. According to CAA data, in November, MAG airports were recovering the fastest among major UK airports, with London Stansted the fastest of those by serving 63% of 2019 passenger numbers.
Charlie Cornish, MAG CEO said: “Our passenger performance in November showed how consumer confidence grew strongly as soon as restrictions on international travel were lifted.
“Our industry supported the re-introduction of testing requirements, which have done their part in slowing the arrival of the Omicron variant.
“However, now there is widespread domestic transmission of the variant across the UK, there can no longer be any justification for maintaining these costly and damaging restrictions.
“The news that all countries will be removed from the red list is positive recognition that they serve little purpose once the variant is circulating widely, but the same is true for the testing requirements which remain.
“Aviation has been hit harder by Covid measures than any other part of the economy. The latest testing requirements are already undermining the strong recovery we were starting to see.
“We need the Government to act swiftly to minimise the disruption to travel and reduce the costs for families travelling over the Christmas, as well as supporting the recovery of our critically-important sector.”
Cargo volumes at Manchester Airport were 23.4% higher in November compared to the same month last year. Volumes at London Stansted and East Midlands Airport were down 14.4% and 7.7% respectively.
Rolling 12-month total to Nov 21
12-month total % change year on year
Rolling 12- month total to Nov 20
Nov 21 total
Nov 21 % change year on year
Nov 21 % change on Nov 2019
Nov 2021 total tonnes
Nov 2021 % change year on year