The boss of Jet2holidays says he is “sympathetic” to the government’s reluctance to introduce airport Covid-19 testing, noting that they are “making progress”.
Speaking about the introduction of regional corridors as part of Travel Weekly’s Future of Travel Week, Steve Heapy said “the government would like to have more regions on sale” but appreciated the risk they see in increasing infections by opening up more destinations within countries that were not islands.
Using the example of Benidorm, on Spain’s mainland, and “a big destination” for Jet2holidays, he said: “There’s roads into Benidorm, there’s trains. It’s not surrounded by water, not on all sides anyway. People can go in there. It’s not the controlled situation that islands are. There’s pretty much one way into an island for a holidaymaker, which is landing at the airport. You have a very controlled situation. If you apply the same sort of process to somewhere like Benidorm you’d have to have guards on every road in every field and in the mountains. It’s unworkable.
“So the governments are looking at how they can resolve this. We are talking to the government and, hopefully, they’ll be come up with something. They’re investigating testing.”
On Jet2’s lobbying efforts, he said: “We have regular dialogue with the government at various levels. We tend not to make a song and dance about it because it’s part of our job. We don’t try to get on the front cover of Travel Weekly every week saying ‘we’ve talked to the government’, we do it quietly and respectfully and try and chip away and try and influence their decisions.
“They are making progress but, I think, in the past where they briefed people from the industry, some people from the industry have briefed the press. And now the government are very uneasy about talking to some of the industry because it’s very leaky. And very often the government wants to have conversations with the industry to get their thoughts, not to see it washed all over the paper the next day. It has been detrimental.”
Asked if testing was a workable solution, Heapy said: “Yeah, in the absence of a vaccine, which we’re all hoping for.”
But he noted the time involved in manufacturing and distributing a vaccine once it is proven to work.
“Testing is the next best thing,” he said. “Now the concerns from the governments are that, depending on when you test, the chance of catching a positive results are quite small.”
He explained the UK government’s position on testing, and predicted a two-test solution with a shorter quarantine period than currently was a more likely solution than one test on arrival.
“The last thing they want to do is give a load of false negatives to people thinking, ‘I’ve not got the virus, living their life as normal and spreading it.”
Stressing he is “not a mouthpiece for the government”, Heapy said: “We are trying to be a little bit sympathetic as to the enormity of the challenges they face. They are working on these things.”
He added that the government must “make sure it’s resourced, and test results come back quickly” and acknowledged that “getting the huge machine of the civil service acting quickly is probably a bit of a challenge”.
“I guess what they don’t want to do is make big policy announcements and then for the for it to end in a grinding halt where nothing happens. There’s quite a few things to get right, but they are moving in the right direction.”
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