Passenger numbers at London Heathrow Airport in May continued at an all-time low (down 97% compared to the same time last year).
This grim picture is set to continue thanks to the Government’s quarantine policy which requires all arriving passengers to self-isolate for two weeks. In line with this decline, the airport has begun to restructure its front-line roles, having already cut 1/3rd of managerial roles.
The airport is urging the Government to establish ‘air bridges’ to low risk countries that will enable the country to restart its economy in earnest, protecting livelihoods in aviation and the sectors that rely on it. The depressing figures come as the aviation industry calls for a 12-month waiver in business rates for all airports in England and Wales, matching the support given to Scottish and Northern Irish airports and the UK’s hospitality and leisure sector.
Despite an increase in cargo only aircraft (including those that have had seats removed from cabins and thus converted to cargo use), overall cargo tonnage has decreased by 40% as the bulk of cargo usually travels in the belly hold of passenger planes.
Last month, Heathrow began trialling thermal screening technology in the immigration hall of Terminal 2 and the check in area in Terminal 5. These trials are part of a wider programme looking at how technology could reduce the risk of contracting or transmitting COVID-19 when travelling and in future could help create a Common International Standard for health screening.
Heathrow's terminals remain eerily quiet and empty.
Heathrow CEO, John Holland-Kaye, said: “Throughout this crisis, we have tried to protect front line jobs, but this is no longer sustainable, and we have now agreed a voluntary severance scheme with our union partners. While we cannot rule out further job reductions, we will continue to explore options to minimise the number of job losses.”
KJM Today Opinion
At a time when countries around the world are easing lockdowns and re-opening borders, the idea of the UK government effectively closing the door by imposing the quarantine is absurd.
The thinking behind doing so had some sense back in March, when the Covid-19 outbreak began to take hold around the world, but to do so now indicates a complete lack of any kind of planning for and thought towards a post-pandemic future. Instead, it smacks of a desire 'to be seen to be doing something', and something which appeals to those on one side of the political spectrum who have been shouting the loudest for increasing the scope of restrictions rather than easing them.
At some point - and very soon, if not immediately - the UK will have to decide whether or not the risk of permanent damage to the economy and the ability of people to have any kind of worthwhile life will have to be balanced against the possibility that some may not have a life at all. However unpalatable, both in the UK and everywhere else, it must be accepted that people die. Death however, is inevitable - once born, everybody is heading in the same direction regardless of wealth, status or anything else. It is in our nature to hope that early passing (from whatever cause) happens to somebody else but in the end, we will all move on to the next world.
The aim is to live as long as we can and as healthily as we can. That means confronting disease and fighting it - not running away from it, as the world has been doing with this particular infection, that of Covid-19. Be specific - it is not 'The Coronavirus' we need to be afraid of. As we have repeatedly said on KJM Today, the word Coronavirus is a generic term for a number of viruses, of which Covid-19 is just one.
One of the exceptions to the UK quarantine requirement is the Republic of Ireland, which is part of the Common Travel Area, which also includes the Channel Islands (Kevan James)
There are times when it feels as though it is KJM Today alone and its writers that have taken the time and trouble to get this right. Yet whatever the affliction, there have been countless pandemics since humanity first walked the world, yet until now not a single one has resulted in governments forcing previously free people in to their homes and instructing them never to leave.
Do politicians want huge numbers of people permanently out of work and with no prospect of ever having a job again, or do they want a vibrant, bustling, busy country that is free to come and go, to earn its keep, with a free and vibrant people?
All images - Heathrow Airport Ltd. unless otherwise stated.
The airport's history, including the truth behind its origins in World War II, are revealed in
Kevan James' book, Heathrow Airport 70 Years and Counting.
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