UK’s main airport sees just 71 passengers in March, up from 256,000 in 2019
The number of passengers at one of the country’s main airports fell by more than 99% in March compared to previous years, underlining the dramatic effect of UK government restrictions on the travel industry.
East Midlands Airport, a major hub for airlines like Jet2, Ryanair and Tui, served just 71 passengers for the whole of March of this year, up from 106,529 in 2020 and over 256,000 in 2019.
The message was delivered by Manchester Airports Group – which operates Manchester, Stansted and East Midlands airports – which reported that passenger numbers fell by 90% in the first 12 months of the coronavirus pandemic.
He called for greater cooperation between governments to track new variants of Covid-19, rather than relying on expensive PCR testing and demanded that a new category be created for unrestricted travel in order to help recovery.
Currently, the UK government is proposing that all passengers – even those returning from less risky “green” destinations – will have to take a PCR test, so they can collect data that will aid in genomic sequencing.
MAG said this could be avoided if governments worked together on the sequencing and sharing of variant data.
The testing requirement is part of the Global Travel Taskforce’s “ traffic lights ” framework, announced last week, which ranks countries as red, orange or green based on Covid risk.
MAG said the framework should be urgently improved to include an unrestricted fourth category, capitalizing on the success of the UK’s leading immunization program.
It would reduce significant personal costs for passengers and instill the confidence that the UK aviation industry needs before what will be a critical summer season.
The dramatic downturn in aviation was laid bare in MAG’s annual passenger figures, which showed that compared to March 2020, MAG served 93% fewer passengers in March 2021, and that its total passengers over 12 months is down 89%.
In March 2019, MAG served more than four million passengers, compared to March 2021 when it served 140,000, a decrease of 97%.
Manchester Airport only handled 95,798 passengers in March 2021, 89.8% less than the 942,900 it handled 12 months earlier. At Stansted, the figure was 44,259 in March, down from more than 800,000 a year earlier – a drop of 95%.
The hosted East Midlands airport served just 71 passengers for the entire month of March this year, up from 106,529 in 2020.
MAG Managing Director Charlie Cornish said: “The UK government is among the first to come forward with proposals for a system to allow international travel to resume and should be applauded for taking the lead.
“After more than a year of almost total closure – and with so many jobs and so much economic value at stake – it’s really important to get people moving once it’s safe to do so.
“We now need the government to confirm the start date of May 17 as soon as possible, as well as the list of countries that fall into each category of ‘traffic lights’.”
Mr Cornish added: “But the price attached to testing will slow the recovery and hamper the sector’s ability to fuel the economic recovery in the UK as a whole.”
“Where we can trust data from other countries, forcing people to spend money on expensive PCR tests, to get exactly the same information, would be a colossal waste of everyone’s money.
“The government should also look to the UK’s premier immunization program as a way to remove additional barriers to travel to as many destinations as possible.”