27 SEPTEMBER 2021
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The House of Commons, Transport Select Committee, under the chairmanship of Hugh Merriman, came under praise last week from Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye, for its efforts in persuading the Government to change the England entry rules.
Grant Shapps, Transport Minister, also gained rare acclaim for standing up, it is said, for the sector in higher circles.
Holland-Kaye appeared in front of the Committee on Tuesday (21 September) afternoon, joined by Stewart Wingate, Chief Executive, Gatwick Airport; Sophie Dekkers, Chief Commercial Officer, easyJet; Colm Lacy, Acting Chief Commercial Officer, British Airways. They more or less spoke in unison.
With Shapps due to appear before the Committee the next day, and never exposed to public questions by the industry, it was clear that the panel was using the opportunity as a briefing session for their ministerial interrogation the next day.
What was very evident was that the UK’s airlines and airports had recovered much slower than their European competitors. Holland-Kaye cited Netherlands where the Government had worked hard to support Amsterdam as the gateway to Europe, now top of the league for passengers and cargo; Heathrow, the long-time leader, now relegated to tenth.
“If the UK wants to be a winner, we need to be much more thoughtful and progressive in using our air routes as our international trade routes and making sure they stay open in difficult times to keep British businesses moving and protecting jobs in the UK,” he said.
Lacy pointed out that British Airways is currently at 40% of pre-pandemic capacity, while carriers like KLM, Air France and Lufthansa are back to around 70%.
Dekkers, at easyJet, said “the UK is lagging behind Europe”. Nowhere else in Europe do they have testing like this,” she said.
Wingate was positive: “We also welcome the news that Day 2 PCR tests will be replaced with the quicker and more affordable lateral flow tests, which will allow us to start catching up with our competitors in Europe and the US – where passenger numbers are already approaching pre-pandemic levels.
Also see in this week's BTN Parliament’s Transport Committee (Part 2).
All comments are filtered to exclude any excesses but the Editor does not have to agree with what is being said. 100 words maximum
Linda Lace, London
Well done the committee. The England laws have changed, but they should be for the whole of the UK.