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Fri, 23 October 2020

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Aviation will be crucial to restarting the British economy

Aviation will be crucial to restarting the British economy

We’ve seen the uptake of air freight increase by over 1300% as a result of the steps taken to increase our cargo capacity and prioritise flights carrying medical supplies, writes John Holland-Kaye, Chief Executive, Heathrow | PA Images

John Holland-Kaye - Chief Executive Officer | Heathrow

5 min read Partner content

The Prime Minister needs to put aside his historic feelings held towards Heathrow and recognise that it is more than just an airport.

Many of this country’s past leaders must have wondered if they would ever encounter a challenge that came close to Churchill’s, and for those in power it looks like that time is now.

Today, Boris Johnson is at a pivotal juncture in the country’s history where indecision and inaction could jeopardise the UK’s global standing, built on the hard work of the generations that have come before.

The Prime Minister needs to put aside his historic feelings held towards Heathrow and recognise that it is more than just an airport. We are the engine room he needs to get economic blood pumping back around this great nation and beyond. Government action to drive forward what safe travel looks like in the future will see visitors coming back, freight moving out and a strengthening of the economy.

 

Today is the 75th anniversary of the VE-day celebrations which marked the end of the Second World War. On May 8th 1945, Brits took to public spaces in droves to hear Winston Churchill’s victory speech, eager to celebrate the allied victory over the axis forces.

Prior to the outbreak of Covid-19, many would have been keen to recreate the street parties that appear all too familiar from the history books. But these celebrations will now have to take a different form, as the nation protects itself from the new enemy in our midst.

Aviation had a role to play then, delivering much needed airlifts and supplies to frontline troops and even now it plays a supporting role in our struggle against coronavirus.

Several commentators have compared our current fight against Covid-19 to the Blitz, either commending the public for pulling together and supporting each other or balking at how restricted our lives have become as a result of this outbreak.

The fact of the matter is that this fight against Covid-19 is unlike any other in modern history. Conflicts of this scale require all of us to play our part, and where the Brits of the 1940s are known for ‘keeping calm and carrying on’, our mantra today is ‘stay at home, protect the NHS and save lives’.

Aviation had a role to play then, delivering much needed airlifts and supplies to frontline troops and even now it plays a supporting role in our struggle against coronavirus.

Even though the world’s travel remains restricted, we at Heathrow have committed to keeping our airport open as long as it is safe to do so.

Remaining open allows us to facilitate the delivery of vital medical supplies for the NHS as they grapple with the biggest health challenge of our generation.

We’ve seen the uptake of air freight increase by over 1300% as a result of the steps taken to increase our cargo capacity and prioritise flights carrying medical supplies.

Although this increase is a significant one, it’s worth noting that it’s still only a fraction of our normal cargo throughput.

This is partially because many of the great global economies are disrupted by this worldwide lock down, but the decline is also worsened by the fact that the bulk of cargo (95%), would usually travel in the belly hold of now grounded passenger planes.

This war has required us all to stop travelling and stay at home, so that we can curb the spread of this disease, shield our NHS and flatten the curve. But, these drastic steps must remain temporary, otherwise the economic damage will be devastating and this virus will have succeeded in upending our very way of life.

The decision to enter lockdown is one that wasn’t taken lightly, and has clearly helped the UK to gain some ground in the fight against an enemy that has taken the world by surprise, but tackling this issue will require us to work together, innovate and adapt.

This is why Heathrow will be trialling new technology and processes to help turn the tide in the fight against this disease, while safely and responsibly resuming normalcy.

The alternative could see us continuing down a path where livelihoods, economies and memories are surrendered to this virus, and we give up the parts of our lives that we enjoy most.

Until a vaccination is developed, it’s unlikely that any single solution will be the silver bullet that eradicates the threat. That is why we are testing a host of technologies and reviewing all of the airport’s processes to develop a suite of measures that work together to reduce the risk of transmission and restore confidence in flying.

We’re at the very start of this process and while the suite of solutions remains to be decided, we are clear that any measures implemented will need to be medically effective, passenger friendly and practical for airports to deliver.

Airports and airlines can act quickly to keep people safe while they are travelling, but only governments can decide whether they will accept someone into their country.  This is why we’re calling for Government to take a lead in developing a Common International Standard for health screening to safely protect the health of the economy as we look to reopen our borders.

Just as aviation has a role to play in the country’s efforts to overcome this outbreak, our sector will be crucial to the restart of the British economy once this war is won.

By taking the right steps now, we will ensure the public can have the confidence to fly again and give the country every opportunity to go from strength to strength as we set out the path towards economic recovery. And in this fight, Heathrow stands ready to serve the country and do its part in aiding the economic comeback.

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