The air travel industry saw its darkest months as traveling was restricted around the world amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Beijing and Atlanta airports were the two world’s busiest airports in 2019 that handled more than 100 million passengers in the last year.
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However, in 2020, CNN reported a passenger drop of 73.6 percent for Beijing and 56.6 percent for Atlanta.
The Dubai airport which held the position for the world’s busiest airport for international travel has predicted a drop in air traffic by 70 percent. CEO Paul Griffiths told Reuters that quarantine requirements around the world are creating a hurdle.
He urged the governments to design policies that include testing for the virus during departure and arrival.
“Going through an airport, the whole travel experience will be as enjoyable as open-heart surgery,” he told Bloomberg adding that the crisis is unlike anything ever seen in the aviation business. “If you go to the UK at the moment, you’re subject to 14 days quarantine and a lot of people are not able to afford the time,” he told Reuters.
According to Airports Council International (ACI World), for the first half of 2020, worldwide airport passenger numbers decreased by -58.4% compared to the same period in 2019, with international passenger traffic hit the hardest, recording a -64.5% drop.
Europe’s biggest international airport, the London Heathrow, has fallen from the top amid the COVID-19 pandemic that had halted the airline business for several months due to strict lockdowns around the world.
According to the London Airport, Paris Charles de Gaulle airport has overtaken it with the highest number of passengers traveling in the last nine months. Reportedly, Charles de Gaulle handled 19.3 million passengers, while Heathrow fell behind recording only 19 million.
The Paris Charles de Gaulle also saw a downfall of 66.8% this year although Heathrow had a steeper fall at 68.9%, reported Flight Global.
Heathrow’s Chief executive John Holland-Kaye blamed the government’s slow response to arrival testings which has led to falling confidence of the travelers. He has urged the UK government to develop a COVID testing regime for passengers.
“This is the way that we can protect jobs in the UK, as well as protecting people from coronavirus,” said Holland Kaye, talking on BBC radio.
“It has to be the right thing to do for this country to help with economic recovery. The government has been slow to get on with this. They really need to get on and make this happen before the beginning of December.”
Heathrow further provided figures for Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport and Frankfurt, which handled 17.6 million and 16.16 million passengers respectively, in the last nine months. Holland-Kaye warned that the two airports are also “quickly gaining ground”.
“European leaders acted quicker and now their economies are reaping the benefits,” he said. He further added that pandemic showed a third runway was necessary at the airport to rebuild the British economy via connections to faster-growing economies such as China and India, reported The Guardian.
“If we don’t we will be flying through Paris to get to global markets,” he warned. “That is not global Britain: that is little Britain. If the prime minister is serious about his vision for a global Britain, he will need a bigger Heathrow.”
Heathrow airport is seeing a bad year as revenues fell by 59% to £951 million. It recorded a pre-tax loss for the nine months to 30 September over £1.5 billion ($1.97 billion), reported Flight Global.
The Transport Minister, Grant Shapps, had earlier addressed the issue saying that he was “very hopeful” of the new testing regime for passengers traveling to the UK from December 1, reported BBC.
“My ministerial colleagues and I have agreed [on] a regime, based on a single test provided by the private sector and at the cost to the passenger, after a period of self-isolation,” he had said laying out the plan.“It will mean a single test for international arrivals, a week after arrival.”
Reportedly, the British Airways chief, Sean Doyle, has been vying for a testing regime before departure so that the quarantine period can be eliminated. It was time, he said, to replace the current quarantine regime with a “reliable and affordable” test taken before flying, reported BBC.
While the airport industry around the world has been hit by the travel restrictions in the wake of the pandemic, the economies have started to reopen and the testing and safety measures adopted for traveling can boost the confidence of the passengers, encouraging more people to fly.