Manchester Airport Group (MAG) has called for an end to “expensive” PCR tests in a statement claiming the country’s travel system is “holding back recovery”.
The UK’s largest airport group – which owns London Stansted and East Midlands airports as well as Manchester – has published its figures for July, which show that passenger levels were 81.4% down on July 2019, when the group served 6.5 million passengers.
Just 1.2 million passengers were served in the same month this year.
MAG said that since the review of the traffic light system on 4 August – which saw more countries added to the green and amber lists – passenger volumes have picked up slightly, but still remain significantly below pre-pandemic levels.
With just three weeks of the peak summer season remaining, MAG said the requirement for passengers to pay for PCR tests, even when fully vaccinated and returning from low-risk destinations, was “out of step” with the rest of Europe and holding back the recovery of UK airports and airlines.
CEO Charlie Cornish said: “While it is encouraging that more people are taking the opportunity to go on holiday or visit friends and family overseas, we are still yet to see a meaningful recovery in international travel.
“UK passengers continue to be subjected to onerous and expensive PCR testing on the basis they will be sequenced to protect the UK from variants of concern.
“But it is clear this is not happening.”
Figures released by MAG from data obtained by Airports Council International show that Europe’s airports have already recovered to around 59% of pre-pandemic levels, compared to just 28% in the UK.
The government has said that PCR testing is needed to identify variants of concern, but MAG bosses say the latest official data shows only around 5% are actually being sent for sequencing.
MAG therefore says this “brings into question the need for passengers to take these tests”.
“Passengers – especially those who are fully vaccinated – will be right to question why they are forced to pay the extra cost for tests which are not being used in the way we were told they would be,” Cornish continued.
He added: “We need a simple and sustainable system for travel, which people can understand and that is proportionate to the public health position here in the UK.
“The government must act urgently and re-evaluate the need for expensive PCR tests.”
Featured Image – Manchester Airport