Flight prices will soar without health checks: Heathrow chief’s warning

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The Heathrow boss has warned that air fares will skyrocket unless a new set of international airport health and safety standards is agreed “within six weeks”.

John Holland-Kaye said in an interview with The Mail Sunday that the number of people allowed on an airplane would drop by a third if passengers were forced to stay two meters apart. according to strict rules of social distancing to face the risks of coronavirus.

Airlines should raise prices to remain “economically viable,” he said, warning that “normal and working people” could be excluded from air travel.

Time of decision: airlines will have to raise prices to remain

Time of decision: airlines will have to raise prices to remain “economically viable”, says Heathrow boss

He revealed that he is holding urgent talks with the British government, the EU and airports in Europe, China and the United States to find a way for airports to function as coronavirus-free areas that would not require not a strict social distancing.

This would allow more tourists to travel with confidence, he said. Under the proposed health check, passengers could undergo a temperature check on arrival or at security.

Once vaccines are available, it would be possible for passengers to obtain a “health passport” before leaving their home. Heathrow also plans to accelerate the deployment of technology that minimizes physical contact when people pass through the airport.

Holland-Kaye said security could be done instead by scanners and more people could go through electronic gates during immigration.

It is understood that even if an agreement on international standards is reached, the measures could take months to be introduced and would not be ready for the summer vacation this year.

Holland-Kaye said, “If we can make airports a safe place to get in and out, that will be the key to making aviation work again. We must protect the ability to steal from normal, hard-working people. If we do not find a better solution to social distancing, the prices of travel will increase. “

Higher airfares would end the boom of low-cost carriers over the past 15 years. EasyJet, which immobilized its entire fleet, said last week that the average seats on its planes could be left empty when flights resume to ensure social distancing, which increases the prospect of higher prices.

Emirates tested all Covid-19 passengers last week before boarding a flight from Dubai to Tunisia. Results were available within ten minutes of completing the tests upon registration. Passengers also had to wear masks at the airport and abide by the rules of social distancing on board.

Heathrow wants to introduce health screening at airports as soon as possible to eliminate the need for social distancing. Holland-Kaye said the international agreement was urgent, adding, “We have to set up the basic standards in the next six weeks so that we can start putting in place the technology and processes to start opening airports .

“For the entertainment industry, the key question is whether international travelers will be able to come here for the summer. and this is vital to the British economy. The faster we go, the better.

Transport Minister Grant Shapps warned against planning overseas travel in the coming months on Friday. He told BBC Radio 4 Today: “I won’t book a summer vacation at this point, let’s put it this way. “

Heathrow predicts that the total number of flights will decrease by 90% in April. The remaining flights are mainly freight and repatriation of the British. Aviation consultant Chris Tarry warned that the recovery of the industry could take years. There is still enormous uncertainty as to when the various countries will reopen their borders.

He said: “It will likely be a long time before airports and airlines are able to demonstrate that they do not create hot spots of infection when passengers gather. “

The pandemic has left many aviation companies fighting for survival due to Covid-19’s travel bans. The crisis killed Flybe in March and there are fears that new airlines might fail. Virgin Atlantic renewed calls for a government bailout of £ 500 million.

Heathrow supports his claim, saying it is “vital for UK connectivity.” Heathrow’s £ 3.2 billion in cash reserves will keep it for at least 12 months, said Holland-Kaye.

But his bill for professional rates – around £ 100,000 per month – now overshadows his income. It puts most of its 7,500 employees on leave and has reduced costs by switching to single-track operations. It will also temporarily close two terminals.

Holland-Kaye said, “This crisis shows how vital we are to the British economy by helping to support millions of jobs across the country and bringing people to the country to spend their money. We will not see the economy recover until we can get people back into international markets. “

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