Heathrow calls for airport virus tests after £1 billion loss

Travellers arriving from Madrid at the Terminal 5 at Heathrow Airport REUTERS  Henry Nicholls

The CEO of Europe's busiest airport John Holland-Kaye warned that the United Kingdom would be losing a game of global "quarantine roulette" if the government fails to take action.

In an interview with the BBC on Wednesday, Heathrow's Chief Executive John Holland-Kaye urged the United Kingdom government to restart travel to get the country's fragile economy going again - by introducing coronavirus testing at airports - and fast.

The business cut at least £300m operating costs and cancelled or paused more than £650m of capital projects in an attempt to protect jobs.

Heathrow, along with airports, airlines and the entire tourism industry across the globe is suffering from the economic impact of the coronavirus.

Heathrow has appealed the ruling to the Supreme Court.

His comments came after the boss of Heathrow airport urged the government to allow a trial in which passengers would be tested on arrival and then again several days later, allowing a significantly shorter quarantine period, in an attempt to save the summer season.

"It can incubate over a period of time so there's not a silver bullet of just testing immediately at the border", Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden told the BBC.


Heathrow said it was trialing testing with companies Swissport and Collinson Group and the system could be up and running within two weeks. Cargo at the UK's biggest port usually travels in the hold of passenger planes, but an increase in cargo-only flights has not offset the loss of passenger flights to long haul markets.

Airports are also suffering.

Passenger numbers at Europe's busiest airport fell 96 percent in the second quarter of 2020, with an 85 percent revenue drop pushing the airport to a $1.43 billion loss for the first six months of the year.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has faced criticism for being too slow to craft a nationwide testing programme, and the United Kingdom government has bet heavily on a home testing approach that has been dogged by delays.

However, Heathrow said its finances remained robust, stating it had enough cash to last until at least June 2021 with no revenue.

The letter, seen by Reuters and dated Wednesday, said that "the lack of a more targeted approach to quarantine and travel advice will simply further damage the travel and hospitality sector by creating uncertainty for both inbound and outbound visitors".

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