Airlines and airport trade bodies have welcomed measures to relax testing requirements for international travel announced by the government yesterday.

Although Wales has followed suit, Scotland and Northern Ireland are yet to confirm if they will follow the UK government in relaxing the rules for international arrivals. Pre-departure testing for those travelling into England will be removed from Friday, January 7 with a rapid lateral flow test deemed sufficient for arrivals. The change will remove the need for PCRs and self-isolation until a negative result is achieved.

“Important step towards learning to live alongside virus”

The move has been welcomed by both airline and travel bodies. Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines UK, the industry body representing UK-registered carriers, said: “This is a hugely welcome move at a critical time in the booking season for passengers, and will provide a massive boost to those wanting to travel abroad or come to the UK this year. People will now be able to book knowing that – for the fully-vaccinated – all emergency testing restrictions have been removed.”

“Today marks an important step towards learning to live alongside the virus, helping passengers and the travel sector look ahead to what will be an all-important spring and summer season.”

“Consumer confidence knocked during critical Christmas period”

Airport Operators Association Chief Executive Karen Dee said: “Removing all the temporary travel restrictions is a welcome recognition that they no longer serve a purpose, now Omicron is well-established in the UK.”

“The UK Government’s decision follows the same approach some other European countries have taken in recent days, such as the Republic of Ireland. The devolved governments should now follow suit, enabling a continued four-nation approach to travel in the UK.”

“Despite the removal of the temporary measures, airports continue to face a difficult period. There continue to be countries who have imposed restrictions on UK arrivals and consumer confidence has been knocked during the crucial Christmas booking period. The UK and devolved governments should set out how they will support aviation towards a sustainable recovery to ensure the UK has the connectivity and the airports necessary for our economic recovery.”

“UK aviation needs its own booster”

The British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) said the scrapping of pre-departure tests was welcome, but added that UK aviation was in need of its “own booster.”

BALPA General Secretary Martin Chalk said: “Anyone who recognises that the restrictions had absolutely no effect on omicron spread welcomes the removal of pre-departure tests. But aviation will be far from back to normal once this takes effect, with large numbers of flights still being cancelled through winter and public confidence in travel still low.”

“Our vaccine programme has been hugely successful. UK aviation now needs its own booster to ensure we can safely be fully up to speed to once again carry the flag around the globe.”

“Government support in the form of an Aviation Recovery Plan is now essential to allow the UK to once again return to the competitive and strong position it was in before Covid. Look no further than the fact that Gatwick Airport was the worst affected airport in Europe for most of the last 20 months.”

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