MPs’ aviation group warns of ‘perfect storm’

The chairman of a cross-bench group of MPs campaigning for aviation has urged the government to axe “rip-off’ tests and “unnecessary and disproportionate” travel restrictions.

Henry Smith (pictured), Conservative MP for Crawley – whose constituency includes Gatwick – has written to the government in his role as chairman of the Future of Aviation all-party group.

In his letter, published in The Telegraph, he said the “ongoing restrictions” make “little sense”, adding: “There is no evidence that international travel from most countries poses a risk to the UK in terms of importing infections.”

With government’s review of travel rules expected to be announced on October 1, Smith warned: “This really is the last opportunity to rescue the UK’s travel sector from a precipice.”

He said thousands of his constituents are reliant on the aviation sector for their livelihoods – as are 500,000 across the country.

“The end of furlough coincides with the end of the peak summer season, which together with the government’s over-cautious approach, is sowing the seeds of a ‘perfect storm’ for those working in the UK’s aviation and travel sector, who are now looking nervously towards the winter, fearful that their jobs will be irrevocably lost overseas or to a European hub,” he wrote.

“If we do not urgently remedy our outlier status by getting rid of rip-off testing rules and dropping unnecessary and disproportionate restrictions for what is surely low-risk travel, our once world-leading aviation sector risks dwindling, meaning fewer jobs, fewer opportunities to travel and do business, and a poorer, more isolated country than before.”

He said European neighbours have moved to a “pragmatic and risk-based scheme” that allows quarantine-free travel for the fully vaccinated without the need for expensive pre-departure and post-arrival testing.

Meanwhile, Robert Courts, the aviation and maritime minister said he hopes to “reduce costs further” on Covid-19 tests for travellers.

Questioned about the issue in the Commons, he said the Department for Transport was working “with travel and testing providers to reduce costs further””, adding: “Travel that is cheap and easy, as well as safe, is our aim.”

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