The head of Heathrow has warned UK aviation could suffer the same fate as London’s Docks if air travel can’t resume in volume until a Covid-19 vaccine is available.

John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow Airport chief executive, told Travel Weekly: “If we have to wait for a vaccine before we get people flying again, I suspect not only will Heathrow be Britain’s only hub airport, it will be Britain’s only airport and we may not have any UK airlines.

“That would be a catastrophic outcome for the UK.”

Speaking on a Travel Weekly webcast, Holland-Kaye warned: “The kind of devastation [could be] the equivalent of when the [coal] mines closed in the north or the Port of London closed in the East End.

“We cannot allow that to happen.”

Holland-Kaye urged the government to agree a trial of Covid-testing for travellers, saying: “Alex Cruz, the chief executive of British Airways, has said that without testing BA won’t survive. That captures the challenge we face.

“I think of what happened in Italy when Alitalia went bust in the global financial crisis. Now for many routes from Italy you have to fly through Germany to get to global markets.

“That is what could happen to the UK if we lost British Airways. We’ll have left the EU and we would be depending upon Frankfurt and Schiphol to get to global markets.

“It is absolutely in the national interest that we keep aviation going. But we can’t take it for granted without support from government. I don’t mean financial support, I mean allowing people who don’t have Covid to fly.”

Holland-Kaye insisted: “The aviation sector could be destroyed in this country and that would be a tragedy.

“Look at what happened to the Port of London. London’s docks in the 1950s were the biggest and busiest in the world. By 1969, they were closed. These things can happen. The best in the world can be closed down.”

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