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Manchester Airports Group backs calls for two-tier travel system

Manchester Airports Group has backed calls for a simplified two-tier system for international travel as it revealed passenger numbers were 68.1% down in August against 2019.

Manchester airport served around 16% of its pre-pandemic traffic over the summer, with numbers 74% down in August compared to 2019. It served just 1.5 million passengers in June, July and August.

Stansted was 60.1% down on 2019 levels in August and East Midlands airport 74.2% down.

The airports group pointed out that the “sluggish recovery” is despite more than 80% of the UK’s adult population being double-vaccinated and that it is little different to summer 2020 when the immunisation programme was not even underway.

MAG also noted ONS data from June which showed aviation is the worst hit UK sector, with activity still more than 90% down on pre-pandemic levels.

The government is due to review its rules for international travel by October 1.

MAG wants a two-tier system to replace the green, red and amber traffic light lists, and the removal of mandatory testing requirements for fully-vaccinated arrivals from countries without new, concerning Covid-19 variants.

Its proposals would make international destinations open for travel as the default, with only those countries which pose a significant public health risk from new variants subject to travel restrictions such as testing and a period of quarantine.

MAG believes this would “remove the chaos and confusion caused by the traffic light system”, “restore consumer confidence by reducing concerns about last-minute changes” and, in terms of testing, “remove a costly and unnecessary barrier to travel”.

Chief executive Charlie Cornish said: “Fully-vaccinated British residents can only look on in envy as people across Europe enjoy the freedom to travel easily to low-risk holiday destinations.

“With restrictions almost entirely removed across the UK, now is the time to give people back those freedoms to explore, relax and visit loved ones.

“The UK’s over-cautious and unnecessarily complex traffic light system is confusing to customers and places needless barriers in the way of them booking travel.

“The impact that is having on our sector is clear, with traffic levels recovering at a much greater rate across Europe than here in the UK.

“Meanwhile, the rest of the economy has been opened-up to those who are double-jabbed, leaving travel as the only sector whose recovery is being held back for no logical reason.

“A simpler, more sensible approach to international travel must be adopted as soon as possible, and government has the opportunity to deliver that in response to proposals put forward by MAG and others in our sector in the weeks ahead.”

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