British business is losing £32 million a day because of the lack of an “air bridge” between the UK and US, says a new study for the aviation industry.
The research, commissioned by Airlines UK and Heathrow airport, warns that multi-billion pound trade deals after Brexit are at risk unless the Government gives the go-ahead to a trial of airport testing to open up links between London and New York.
In an exclusive article online for The Daily Telegraph backing the paper’s Test4Travel campaign, John Holland Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow Airport, urged the Government to back the trial to stem the continuing losses to UK business - and safeguard post-Brexit deals with the US.
He said: “If you believe in Brexit and a truly global Britain that leads the world in trade, restarting safe travel and trade with the US must also be your battle. As long as the skies between the US and the UK remain closed, Brexit will not mean Brexit.”
Heathrow has created a testing facility that could swab 13,000 passengers a day but it stands idle because the Government is refusing to back a trial of the technology that could also open up a London-New York air bridge.
The study, by analysts York Aviation, found that the UK GDP will lose £11 billion as a result of the closed route between the US and the UK with a significant proportion falling in the final quarter of the year.
“By the beginning of October the closed air corridor between the US and the UK will be costing the UK economy £32m each day the air corridor remains closed,” said the report.
This is based on a collapse in passengers of 92 per cent from March, when lockdown was introduced, to 85 per cent in September, compared with 2019.
The study found it was not just London and the South East that were being with 80 weekly flights between the US and six regional airports also currently on ice.
The US accounts for £121 billion in UK exports, much of which is by air, and £417 billion in Foreign Direct Investment which the study said was at risk as air link remains closed.
The UK also sees more visitors by air from the US than from any other country at four million a year. Visitors from the US spent a total of £3.8 billion during 2019, but the study said this was expected to fall by £3.1 billion in 2020.
It noted the average duration of a trip by US visitors is seven days, meaning that current quarantine rules effectively lock these high-spending visitors out of the UK.
Mr Holland Kaye warned that Britain’s status as the leading aviation nation in Europe risked being usurped by other nations because of its failure to keep pace with their testing regimes.
“Due to the UK’s restrictive quarantine regime, aviation which facilitates trade, FDI and any green shoots of safe tourism is more likely to be funnelled to Europe than the UK; stifling the economy, risking jobs and threatening the future of our carriers and airports,” he wrote.
“The Brexit process should enable the UK to ‘take back control’ but by failing to support this country’s aviation industry, the Government risks handing control of our international connectivity – and competitiveness – back to European rivals in Paris, Frankfurt and Amsterdam.”