Heathrow boss warns Government must protect aviation industry

6 May 2020, 12:40

The Heathrow boss has said the aviation industry is vital for the economy
The Heathrow boss has said the aviation industry is vital for the economy. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

The boss of Heathrow has warned the Government must "take the right steps" to protect the aviation industry or the UK will be "giving up a huge national advantage that we have today to our rivals in France and Germany."

Heathrow's CEO John Holland-Kaye told the House of Commons Transport Committee that other countries seemed to be prioritising the aviation sector, and that he had not spoken to the transport secretary since the start of the coronavirus crisis.

Mr Holland-Kaye, said his "wider concern" was that "it's not clear that the Government really understands the strategic role that aviation plays for the UK."

The Heathrow boss said the aviation industry played a much wider role in the UK's economy., and that airports were a "vital lifeline" for regional economies in the UK.

He told MPs: “Aviation is the cornerstone of the UK economy, and to restart the economy, the Government needs to help restart aviation."

Read more: Chancellor preparing to 'wean' businesses off coronavirus furlough scheme

Addressing the committee via video link, he said: "it is also about making sure our factories can operate, our exports can get moving and people can come here and spend money."

"Hundreds of billions of pounds in the economy depends on aviation, if you want to get the UK economy started again, you've got to get the UK aviation sector started again."

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He revealed his equivalent in France is speaking to the country's transport secretary every day, but that he has not spoken to the British transport secretary since "the beginning of the crisis."

Read more: What is the lockdown 'roadmap'? How will restrictions be lifted?

The Heathrow boss warned European countries and airports "see aviation as being fundamental to the success of their economy" adding they were the first to step in and make sure their aviation sectors "would do well out of this."

He branded it an "economic competition" between the UK and "our European friends" warning "they are looking out outmanoeuvre the UK as we come through this crisis, economically."

"They want to have international aviation diverted through Charles De Gaulle and Frankfurt, not through Heathrow, that is their game."

He warned MPs if they don't "take the right steps" to protect the longterm success of our economy, and in particular the aviation sector "then we will be giving up a huge national advantage that we have today to our rivals in France and Germany."

Heathrow is also set to bring in new screening tests will be introduced in the next two weeks at Terminal 2 and include facial recognition thermal screening technology which accurately tracks body temperature.

The airport will trail contactless security measures and UV sanitation which could form the basis of a Common International Standard for health screening at all global airports.

"The UK has the world's third-largest aviation sector offering the platform for the Government to take a lead in agreeing a Common International Standard for aviation health with our main trading partners.

"This Standard is key to minimising transmission of Covid-19 across borders, and the technology we are trialling at Heathrow could be part of the solution," he said.

The airport chief called for passengers to carry, so-called, “health passports” to prove they have the all-clear also require masks on flights.