Flight arrivals down 89% in July despite travel corridors
By Neil Lancefield, PA Transport Correspondent
The number of people arriving in the UK by air in July was 89% lower than during the same month last year, new figures show.
Some 1.3 million passengers flew into the UK last month compared with 11.1 million in July 2019, the Home Office said.
But the figures do indicate a rise in demand for air travel since the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
The average number of monthly arrivals by air in April, May and June was below 200,000.
Since July 10, arrivals from certain countries have been exempt from the requirement to enter quarantine for 14 days.
The list has been amended several times in light of changes to countries’ coronavirus case numbers.
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy The PC Agency, told the PA news agency the Department for Transport and the US Department of Transportation have held “initial talks” about enabling passengers to fly from New York to London without quarantining on arrival.
He said: “It’s very encouraging that the talks have begun because London-New York is one of the busiest and most popular routes in the world. It’s certainly the busiest transatlantic route.
“It’s vital to get this through for both business and leisure traffic.
“Hopefully the talks will agree on opening a corridor this autumn. I know part of the discussion is very much around the testing regime in the UK at Heathrow. There is going to have to be more testing done.
“It would be good news for Virgin Atlantic and British Airways, which rely on London to New York as a key route. They are flying that route at the moment but there’s hardly any flights each day.”
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of trade body Airlines UK, said: “It is hard to overstate the importance of the air link between the UK and US. The US is our biggest trading partner and market for inbound tourism.
“We need to get it open again safely as soon as possible, not least with the end of the Brexit transition looming. Testing and a move towards regional travel corridors is key to that.
“UK airports are ready to go and we have an opportunity to steal a march by opening up international travel through smart, targeted measures that move us away from two-week quarantines for arriving passengers, which effectively act as a travel ban in all but name.”
A Department for Transport spokesman said: “Conversations between governments in other countries on a whole range of issues take place regularly.
“Public health remains the UK’s top priority and we are committed to tackling this virus while enabling a sustainable and responsible return to international travel.
“We keep the data for all countries and territories under constant review, and will not add a country to our travel corridor list unless safe to do so.”
Gatwick Airport announced on Wednesday that it plans to cut around 600 jobs due to the impact of the pandemic on passenger numbers.
This represents nearly a quarter of its workforce.