Adrian Loveridge Column – Getting Ready to Welcome More UK Travellers
The decision made by Virgin Atlantic to re-position their Barbados flights to Heathrow from Gatwick and the recent announcement by British Airways that they will restore a daily flight from London’s first airport from 17th October is a very positive move towards any form of tourism arrival normality from the United Kingdom to our shores, in more ways than one.
The airport is currently undergoing trials involving ‘three systems of outbound Covid-19 testing including a nasal or throat swab test which provides results in 30 minutes, a saliva test which gives a visual result in 10 minutes and a self- administered test that works within 30 seconds’.
These are in addition to the airport’s paid-for inbound testing facility, which is awaiting British Government’s clearance.
According to an airport spokesperson ‘the long-term aim of the trial is to understand whether these tests could be quickly and efficiently conducted on large numbers of people outside of a laboratory setting and to ensure they are accurate enough to be delivered in an airport environment’.
Heathrow’s Chief Executive Officer, John Holland-Kaye added ‘if we can find a test that is accurate, gets results within a matter of minutes, is cost-effective and gets the government green light, we could have the potential to introduce wide-scale testing at the airport’.
Another major plus for Heathrow is the rapidly improving train links.
Our policymakers often overlook that for the vast majority of our visitors, their journey does not start at the airport. They have to get there first, often leaving home close to the dead-of-night to allow for reasonable check-in and security time, in many cases.
While the massive Crossrail project has been further delayed, new type 345 trains with nine carriages that are fully air-conditioned are already fully operational from all the functioning Heathrow terminals, with up to 9 trains per hour to/from Central London and major connecting train terminals and beyond.
The increased capacity, frequency and enhanced ventilation will substantially improve the possibility of effective social distancing and further reduce the fear of virus infection.
A third compelling reason why Heathrow outshines way above other British airports is connectivity, both from an internal domestic UK and worldwide perspective.
Certainly up until the end of 2019, according to OAG (Official Airline Guide), a leading global travel data provider, the Heathrow mega hub was the world’s most internationally connected airport for the third straight year.
‘On the busiest day in aviation during that year an incredible 65,000 connections were possible within a six hour window’.
Frankfurt was second, followed by Chicago O’Hare, Amsterdam and Munich, in that order.
This gives us the strongest possibility of enticing continental Europeans onto seamless connections to both British Airways B777 -200 and Virgin Atlantic’s B787-9 Dreamliner nonstop flights to Barbados.