Heathrow is to reopen its Terminal 3 this month as Boris Johnson pledged to kickstart summer travel by unveiling plans this week for double-jabbed holidaymakers to avoid quarantine.
John Holland-Kaye, the chief executive of Britain’s biggest airport, said it would reopen the terminal after a year mothballed to meet the surge in demand expected when the Government gives the go ahead to the foreign travel plan for fully vaccinated Britons.
Ministers want to allow jabbed holidaymakers (and their children) to be able to fly to amber list countries without having to quarantine from July 19, the same day as domestic restrictions are lifted and in time for the start of most schools’ holidays.
However, hitting July 19 is dependent on whether border technology recognising holidaymakers’ vaccination status can be made to work in time and a testing regime put in place for children returning with their parents.
This means it could drift to July 26 or the beginning of August, but Mr Holland-Kaye has anticipated the earlier date and will reopen Terminal 3 on July 15. Only two of Heathrow’s four terminals are currently operating, T2 and T5, with T4 reserved for flights from “red list” countries.
The airport has also resumed normal two-runway operations after almost a year, in advance of increasing demand.
Mr Johnson told a Downing Street press conference: "We will work with the travel industry towards removing the need for fully vaccinated arrivals to isolate on return from an amber country."
He said Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, would announce details this week. It is expected to start with Britons because of concerns over verifying the vaccination status of foreign travellers and the scope for fraud as a result.
UK leads Europe in vaccinations
British holidaymakers will still be expected to have a pre-departure test before flying back to Britain from an amber list country, and pay for a PCR test on or before day two of their arrival.
However, this will exempt them from ten-day quarantine, effectively turning amber countries into green and opening most of the major markets in Europe including France, Spain, Greece, Portugal and Italy (although it requires five days’ self-isolation).
IATA, the international airline association, has submitted plans to the Department for Transport (DfT) that would integrate vaccination status (via the NHS app or a certificate) into travellers’ passenger locator form.
It is similar to the German Government’s scheme with the certificate uploaded and checked before flying, allowing holidaymakers to pass through airport e-gates without causing significant queues, one of the big stumbling blocks feared by ministers.
Evidence of the pent-up demand for foreign travel comes in a major poll, which showed more than half of British families want the Government to allow fully vaccinated Britons to travel abroad quarantine-free in time for the school holidays.
Tips and tricks for families
Fifty-eight per cent of families with two children said the Government should introduce the change immediately or by July 19, compared with 16 per cent who were completely opposed, and 14 per cent who wanted it delayed until later in the year.
Overall, 48 per cent of all adults, including families, backed quarantine-free holidays for double jabbed Britons, according to the Yougov poll of 2,200 adults.
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said: "We know that demand for travel this summer is incredibly strong, but so too is the level of exacerbation amongst people looking to get away at the Government’s snail-like pace of opening up.
“We’re now well into the summer and still ministers are trying to work out how to make this work. Meanwhile, the EU has stolen a march on us and their citizens are reaping the rewards.”