As London Heathrow prepares to welcome a new US airline, the airport has reported its best month since March 2020.
Britain’s biggest hub handled 1.5 million passengers in July – up 74 per cent compared with the same month in 2020.
But passenger numbers are still 80 per cent lower than in July 2019.
Heathrow was previously by far the busiest airport in Europe. It is currently 17th, with several holiday airports well ahead in passenger numbers.
Heathrow’s chief operating officer, Emma Gilthorpe, said: “Finally, some blue skies are on the horizon, as travel and trade routes slowly reopen.
“The job though is far from complete. Government must now capitalise on the vaccine dividend and seize the opportunity to replace expensive PCR tests with more affordable lateral flow tests.
“This will ensure travel remains attainable for hardworking Brits, desperate for well-earned getaways and keen to reunite with loved ones before the summer travel window closes.”
At present all arrivals to the UK must take at least one PCR test, which typically costs £70, in addition to a lateral flow or other test before boarding a plan.
The best-performing route was between Heathrow and New York JFK, even without the benefit for vaccinated US visitors of avoiding UK quarantine that began on 2 August.
But a presidential proclamation bans non-Americans who have been “physically present” in the UK “during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the United States” – effectively a ban on British travellers.
Despite the prohibition, and the consequent collapse in transatlantic air travel, the New York-based airline jetBlue is launching a new route from JFK airport to Heathrow.
The first scheduled arrival is due to touch down on Thursday morning. Ahead of the maiden flight, jetBlue’s chief executive, Robin Hayes, said he is hopeful that the travel ban might be listed “over the next two or three months”.