London’s Heathrow airport has launched a dedicated arrivals facility for passengers coming from countries that the U.K. government has deemed to be the most risky in terms of COVID-19. The red list arrivals facility at Heathrow creates additional capacity for arrivals from an expanded green list of government-approved countries as well as enabling separate routes through the airport to prevent virus spread.
The U.K.’s Green list of countries to visit is currently limited and includes the likes of Portugal and Iceland, but not the United States. Heathrow and the wider aviation community hopes a travel review on June 7 will expand the number of green list countries. The airport says the U.K. is set to miss out on billions of pounds of Heathrow passenger spend if the green list is not extended as part of the travel review. New research from the Centre of Economics and Business Research reveals that business and leisure passengers arriving at Heathrow alone spend over £16 billion pounds across the country.
U.S. visitors traveling through Heathrow are the largest source of inbound tourism revenue for the entire economy, with these passengers accounting for £3.74 billion pounds, nearly a quarter (23%) of total spend while visiting the U.K. Prior to the pandemic, the U.S. was the top market for passenger traffic, with LHR – JFK one of the world’s most lucrative routes and over 21 million passengers traveling from the airport to America in 2019.
Italy has opened its doors to fully vaccinated American travelers, and France is preparing to follow suit. If EU countries continue to move quickly and more efficiently to restore their U.S. links, then Heathrow fears the U.K. could end up giving these economic opportunities away to the EU.
Rapid progress has been made with the vaccine rollout in the U.S. This progress, alongside testing and the U.K. government’s own risk-based controls, allows for links to be safely restored to more of the U.K.’s low risk key trading partners. The U.S. is currently on the British government’s amber list, meaning self-isolation and testing is required. The government has also said people should not currently be traveling to the U.S. for leisure and should instead select from one of the green list countries or consider a vacation in the U.K.
Launching on June 1, Heathrow’s red list dedicated facility will be in Terminal 3 before later moving to Terminal 4. Those arriving from red list countries have to quarantine at a hotel for ten days and bear the cost of approximately $2000.