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The boss of Heathrow airport has warned that its west London home of Hounslow risks becoming like “a mining town in the 1980s” with the collapse in air traffic putting tens of thousands of jobs at risk.
Heathrow’s chief executive, John Holland-Kaye, urged the government to approve its Covid-19 testing regime to enable more travel, as the airport reported 1.4 million passengers in August, less than one-fifth of its normal traffic for the peak summer month.
“It has really been killed by the quarantine … What we have seen is that when people can fly, they will,” he said. “Other countries – even Jersey – have introduced testing, very successfully. We don’t understand why the government doesn’t do similar things, not just to support aviation but all the businesses that depend on it.”
Holland-Kaye said while Heathrow was “as secure as any business in aviation can be”, it was “hurting”, with losses of £1.1bn in the first half of 2020. “The government needs us to be able to come out fighting from this crisis and get the economy kickstarted. But we’ve seen no support at all from government.”
He defended issuing section 188 notices to unions, threatening to put thousands of long-serving staff on inferior contracts, after four months of talks failed to reach any conclusion.
“Given the lack of passengers, we have to do something and that is the least worst option… We are such as big part of the local economy, if we have large-scale redundancies that would have a similar impact to what we saw with mining towns back in the 1980s, and we want to do everything we can to avoid that,” Holland-Kaye said.
An independent report by Oxford Economics for Hounslow council found the decrease in Heathrow traffic threatened up to 43,000 jobs in the borough, and warned of a £200m hit to the economy causing “extreme hardship for local families and communities”.
Holland-Kaye suggested British Airways could fail and that “no one was immune”, warning: “Alitalia went bust, and now if you want to get to Italy on a long-haul route you mainly have to fly via Germany. That could happen in the UK, and would destroy any hope of a global Britain you may have.”
He added: “We don’t need bailouts, we just need a sensible testing regime. If we don’t take steps to open with testing we will see UK airports and airlines going bust – and once we’ve lost that capacity we will never get it back.”
Heathrow has established a facility with Swissport in Terminal 2 that can test up to 15,000 passengers a day with standard Covid PCR tests, and it has also trialled three rapid tests. One based on microscopic computer analysis of saliva took less than 20 seconds to give a result and cost less than £10 per test, Holland-Kaye said.
“Only the government can decide that a test is good enough to allow people into the country, but this is a British company with potentially world-leading technology … if it could work we should be fast-tracking this,” he added.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Heathrow area risks fate of 1980s mining towns, says airport boss | UK news