Stansted Airport: Give us 'freedom to travel without barrier of testing'

A plane in the sky, with wild flowers on the ground. Image supplied by London Stansted Airport, Essex

London Stansted Airport's passengers numbers are out - Credit: MAG, London Stansted Airport

Stansted Airport's CEO says the Government must find a way to give people the "freedom to travel without the barrier of testing" as latest figures show that passenger numbers have been hammered by the pandemic.

The airport, the largest single-site employer in East Anglia, served 2.18 million passengers between June and August this year compared to 8.28 million passengers over the same period pre-pandemic in 2019.

Passenger numbers have risen this year. In August, 1,142,805 people took a flight out of Stansted Airport.

In July, this figure was 690,366, up from 350,802 in June.

But these numbers are low compared to 2019: in August there were 2,865,863 passengers; in July 2,758,524; and in June there were 2,656,088.

Manchester Airport Group, which owns and operates London Stansted, Manchester and East Midlands airports, reported that its overall August 2021 passenger numbers were 68.1% down on the same month in 2019.

ONS data from June showed that aviation remains the worst-hit UK sector.

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MAG CEO Charlie Cornish has welcomed the "simplification" of the UK's international travel rules for passengers coming into England.

The current red, amber and green traffic light system will be replaced with just two lists on October 4.

Fully vaccinated passengers will no longer need to take a pre-departure Covid-19 test and day-two PCR tests will be replaced with cheaper lateral flow tests.

But the aviation sector has said they need to know the date on which testing rules will change, or they could lose out on holiday bookings.

MAG CEO Charlie Cornish said: “The simplification of the UK’s international travel system, including doing away with pre-departure tests and switching to lateral flow on arrival, will make it easier and cheaper for people to travel abroad.

“For too long, the recovery of UK aviation has lagged behind the rest of Europe. The changes announced will help to close that gap by encouraging more people to book foreign travel.

“But for as long as vaccinated travellers have to pay for tests, the recovery of one of the UK’s major industries will be held back.

“Government must now find a way to give people back the freedom to travel without the barrier of testing.”

The Transport Select Committee's Inquiry into supporting recovery in the UK aviation sector is due to sit today (Wednesday).

Meanwhile, Stansted Airport Watch (SAW, incorporating Stop Stansted Expansion) is pressing the Government to tackle aviation's impact on climate change.

In response to a Department for Transport consultation, SAW has submitted a highly critical evidence paper challenging the DfT’s ‘business as usual’ strategy.

SAW’s climate change adviser Mike Young said: “The Climate Crisis is here and now. We don’t have the luxury of waiting for 20-30 years in the hope that technological solutions will somehow emerge.  

"The Government should follow the clear recommendations of its own independent advisers, the Climate Change Committee, and call a halt to airport expansion until aircraft emissions are brought under control.”

The UK hosts the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow from October 31 to November 12 where world leaders will agree coordinated action to tackle climate change.

A MAG spokesman said: "Stansted along with all MAG’s airport operations are already carbon neutral, and we remain committed to playing our part in achieving the industry’s goal of becoming fully net zero carbon by 2050, and for our own operations no later than 2038."