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Manchester airport to push for further simplification of travel rules

The government will be urged by Manchester airport to further simplify rules so international travel “can start to feel as it was” before the pandemic.

Airport managing director Karen Smart revealed that the call will be made in the new year as the industry continues to recover from its toughest 18 months.

She admitted: “It will be at least until 2024 that we see a return to pre-Covid passenger numbers, but we are hoping for many more new routes in the weeks and months ahead, ensuring we continue to connect the north to key global destinations.”

Smart said: “Prolonged restrictions on travel have undoubtedly held back our recovery to date, as customers found themselves grappling with confusing guidance or requirements, and the associated cost of testing.

“However, after changes to the government’s travel restrictions were announced last week, we are feeling a sense of excitement about our airports starting to return to how we knew them before the pandemic.

“Bookings have surged on the back of the simplification of the traffic light system, and again after it was confirmed more destinations would move off the red list and that PCR tests will no longer be required for those returning to the country by the end of the month.”

She held out hope for a “meaningful increase” in passenger numbers during October half-term – and that it will be a springboard for bookings to continue to grow during the winter and into 2022.

“That is reflected by the confidence we are seeing from our airline partners, as they either return to the airport, start new services from Manchester or increase frequency on existing routes,” Smart said.

She cited Aer Lingus as a key example by starting transatlantic routes from Manchester, initially with flights to Barbados from October 20 followed by Orlando and New York in December.

Smart said: “By the end of the year we will have a number of direct connections back to the USA. The States is one of our most important markets, with more than 1.6 million passengers from our catchment travelling there each year pre-Covid from Manchester airport.

“Not only are these links great from a leisure and tourism point of view, but they are also vital as we connect the North to key global powerhouses for trade and investment opportunities.”

Long-standing carriers such as Singapore Airlines and Cathay Pacific are returning alongside Middle East airlines and Ethiopian Airlines providing a direct connection to Africa.

Smart added: “As we emerge from the pandemic and recovery ramps up, sustainability will be a key theme for the entire industry.

“We’ve led the way in recent years at Manchester and at our other MAG airports, so it will be no different post-Covid.

“Our Corporate Social Responsibility report is due to be released in the coming weeks and will not only highlight our successes in this arena, but it will detail our commitment to the green agenda for the future.”

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