a plane engine on the ground

It may technically only be a part of the European Union for another few months, but Heathrow has already prematurely lost the crown of Europe’s busiest airport. After months of the UK falling behind other countries in arrival testing and measures to safely keep people moving, Britain’s busiest airport has been overtaken in Europe by Charles De Gaulle in Paris in terms of passenger figures.

a plane flying over a city

Europe’s New Busiest Airports

What do Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam have in common? Each boast a major airport which has adapted to travel in the covid-19 age by offering easy access to rapid covid-19 testing, in place of lengthy 14 day quarantine restrictions.

Paris CDG is the first to overtake Heathrow Airport in passengers transported, with 13.9 million, but Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye suggests Frankfurt and Amsterdam are not far behind, thanks to successful new testing programs. Getting a covid-19 test on arrival in Germany is one of the easiest things a traveler can do in the “new normal”.

For months, industry leaders in aviation, hospitality and the broader travel sector have warned that this day would come, and that the UK would lose its place as a key travel and business hub in Europe, if testing in place of lengthy quarantine wasn’t at least trialled.

a bridge over a river with a clock tower in the background

Financial Support For Travel Sector

Aside from testing which creates layers of safety both for travelers and domestic infrastructures, financial support is also seen as a key factor in the shakeup among Europe’s busiest hubs. Flag carrier airlines in each of these markets, Air France, KLM and Lufthansa each received over €9 billion in support, compared to nil, or entirely insignificant figures for UK based airlines.

Talking to the BBC, Heathrow’s CEO, John Holland-Kaye didn’t mix words on the need for urgent measures…

“Already in France and Germany, even Canada and Ireland have moved to testing and this is the way to make sure we can protect jobs in the UK as well as protecting people from coronavirus, The government really need to get on and make this happen before the beginning of December if we are going to save people’s jobs.”

John Holland-Kaye, Heathrow CEO

With travel heading into the always treacherous low season, airlines, hotels and the many businesses from pubs to restaurants which rely on guests and visitors will now face their most difficult challenge yet. UK Government says it hopes to trial measures of testing in place of quarantine before the end of the year, but authorities say a lack of commitment right now is simply unacceptable. Watch this space.

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. On the thrust of the article, in *partial* mitigation of the government’s lazy, slow and inadequate response to the travel industry…
    The UKs biggest airline and Heathrow largest operator were until a few weeks ago actively campaigning against support in the hope of forcing some of their competitors out of business.
    That can’t have helped in forming clear strategies to provide assistance to the sector. Of course it doesn’t address any of the testing /quarantine issues but that’s an area where the current executive seem to have been more concerned about working with private providers than either effectiveness or efficiency.

  2. The UK are leaving the European Union NOT Europe. But yes the UK gov need to sort out the in-airport testing.

  3. What a pity, he said sarcastically. Such in inconvenient airport to transfer through coming from North America. And to add insult to inconvenience, AADVANTAGE trips always want to route you through there to EU, and pile on a hefty fuel surcharge too… at least they used to, when I last looked, in February…

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