Call for Government to carefully think through airport quarantine proposals

The region’s two main airports are focusing on how best to enable a return to travel once the Government deems it safe to do so.

Manchester Airports Group (MAG) has called on Downing Street to consider how best to implement its proposed passenger quarantine system which could impact international air travel, while Liverpool John Lennon Airport is already in talks with airlines over re-starting operations, while building on recent increases in cargo traffic.

MAG owns and operates Manchester Airport, as well as London Stansted and East Midlands Airport.

Its chief executive, Charlie Cornish, believes the Government should carefully consider the use of quarantine measures which could see UK inbound passengers having to quarantine for a fortnight on arrival.

Mr Cornish told “The Government needs to be clear that a quarantine for passengers arriving into the UK can only be a short-term measure.

“Any quarantine is going to affect the whole aviation sector significantly.

“To protect the UK travel industry, we need to know how the quarantine will work, how long it will last, and how businesses will be supported during this further period of near-zero demand.

“We do expect any quarantine to be time-limited and to take a smart approach that recognises the varying risk levels between different countries.”

Last week MAG introduced new procedures requiring passengers to wear face masks and gloves when using its airports.

Mr Cornish added: “We have been working on practical solutions to allow people to travel safely by air.

“It is essential that the Government sticks to the commitment it’s given us to produce a plan by the end of May for re-starting the aviation industry. We can’t let the UK fall behind its competitors in Europe.”

Meanwhile, in Liverpool, airport bosses are in talks with Ryanair in preparation for the budget carrier to resume part of its schedule by July 1.

On Tuesday this week the airline announced plans to resume 40% of its normal flight schedules in July.

Liverpool John Lennon Airport (LJLA) head of press, Robin Tudor, revealed: “We are talking to Ryanair at present and hope to see the return of some of their services in July operating from Liverpool.”

He added that the airport is waiting for confirmation from its other airline partners as to what their recovery will look like.

During the lockdown the only passenger services operating at the airport – other than the odd repatriation flights with Norwegian airline Widerøe to Bergen for a handful of passengers – have been twice daily Loganair services to the Isle of Man.

These are generally related to the Isle of Man Health Service, with passengers from the island travelling to access cancer care treatment in the region.

However, these services have also seen an increase in cargo levels, particularly personal protective equipment (PPE) freight, with up to 800kg of PPE per day being carried on scheduled services from the city to the island.

And, post lockdown, LJLA believes it can win increased levels of freight, having seen a strong return in the sector over the past 18 months.

This is mainly based on automotive sector freight, with the airport serving both the nearby Jaguar Land Rover factory and the Vauxhall plant at Ellesmere Port.

Mr Tudor said: “Pre-COVID we had seen a strong return of freight business and had handled 550,000 kg of freight over the 12 month period up to February, which was an increase on the prior 12 month period of over 100%.

“This strong growth was primarily related to the automotive industry, with parts being flown directly into LJLA, not just for the local automotive plants, but for further afield. Regular shipments have come from Poland, Germany and Morocco.”

He said it is anticipated that this activity will recommence once car plant production lines begin to reassemble.

But he added: “The freight sector over the next 12 months in Liverpool will largely continue to be based around the automotive sector, however, as freight has grown from almost a zero base in the last 18 months, dialogue with airlines and businesses is taking place to bring new scheduled cargo services back to Liverpool.”