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17 MAY 2021

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Article from BTNews 17 MAY 2021

ON THE SOAPBOX: Robert Courts, Aviation Minister

Today is a special day when international travel returns.  BTN is honoured by these exclusive words from the Minister for Aviation Robert Courts, MP.  Mr Courts, the Member for Whitney & West Oxfordshire since 2016, a barrister, has been Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport since 2020.  He previously served on the Parliamentary Select Committee for Transport.

"The UK is known for a myriad of wonderful reasons: a rich history and equally rich landscape, varied and breath-taking in its beauty. But our weather is equally varied, and not always to our taste. That's why we travel in our millions each summer.
 
But, as an island nation that prides itself on its global reach and fantastic travel sector, for many international travel means more than just taking a well-deserved break. It means getting back to work and being able to reunite with friends and family across the world.  
 
Before the pandemic, aviation directly contributed at least £22 billion to the UK economy and employed around half a million people. While we have supported the industry through these challenging times – providing one of the most comprehensive packages of business support in the world of around £7 billion to the aviation sector – we understand that our travel companies need to get back to business.
 
That is why we’re committed to restarting international travel in a safe and sustainable way. We want to make sure that when we reopen, we stay open. We want to ensure that not only our hard-won gains and world-leading vaccination programme is protected from variants of concern but that passengers and the industry have the confidence to travel.
 
As our understanding of the virus and vaccination programmes across the world go from strength to strength, the opportunities to open up international travel will only grow.   
 
For those eager travellers who are already booked and ready, a lot of those familiar experiences we’ve all been missing, such as the 3am wake up calls to get to the airport, will remain the same – but there will be a lot of differences.   
 
Protecting public health has and always will be our number one priority. Having made enormous progress over the last year, we cannot risk undermining it at such a crucial juncture, which is why strict health measures will remain in place at the border. This includes 100% health checks, social distancing and, for arrivals, completing the passenger locator form and following the restrictions in place based on the traffic light system. This includes Government advice that the public should avoid travelling to countries categorised as ‘Amber’ and ‘Red’.
 
For those travelling abroad, and particularly those arriving into the UK, this means that there are likely to be longer queues. While I recognise that this can be frustrating, it is important that we maintain our robust border checks – which are among the toughest in the world – to prevent new strains of the virus entering the country and putting our vaccine roll out at risk.
 
Throughout the pandemic, the spirit, resilience and cooperation of the British public has humbled me every step of the way. I have no doubt that as we begin to reopen international travel, the public will embrace the new changes and procedures with the “can do” attitude we’re known for".

Robert Courts MP

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