East Midlands Airport sees just 71 passengers in March compared to 256,000 in 2019


Passenger numbers at East Midlands Airport (EMA) dropped more than 99 per cent compared to years before the coronavirus pandemic – showing the dramatic impact the virus has had on air travel.

The airport – major hub for airlines like Jet2, Ryanair and Tui – served just 71 passengers during the whole of March this year, compared to 106,529 in 2020 and more than 256,000 in 2019.

The stark figures have been released by the Manchester Airports Group – which runs Manchester Airport, EMA, and Stanstead – which reported passenger numbers were down by 90 per cent during the first 12 months of the covid pandemic.

The company has now called for greater cooperation between governments to track new Covid-19 variants, rather than relying on costly PCR tests and demanded a new category was created for restriction-free travel to aid recovery.

Currently, the UK Government proposes that all passengers – even those returning from the lowest risk ‘green’ destinations – will have to take a PCR test, so it can gather data that will help with genomic sequencing.

MAG said this could be avoided if governments worked together on sequencing and sharing data on variants.

The testing requirement is part of the Global Travel Taskforce’s ‘traffic light’ framework, announced last week, which categorises countries as red, amber or green based on Covid risk.

MAG said the framework should be improved urgently to include a fourth, restriction-free category capitalising on the success of the UK’s world-leading vaccination programme.

Doing so would remove significant personal cost to passengers and inject much-needed confidence into the UK aviation sector ahead of what will be a critical summer season.

The dramatic downturn aviation has experienced was laid bare in MAG’s annual passenger figures, which showed that compared to March 2020, MAG served 93 per cent fewer passengers in March 2021, and that its rolling 12-month passenger total is down 89 per cent.

In March 2019, MAG served more than four million passengers, compared to March 2021 when it served 140,000 – a 97 per cent decrease.

Manchester Airport handled just 95,798 passengers in March 2021, 89.8 per cent down on the 942,900 it handled 12 months earlier. At Stansted, the figure was 44,259 this March, compared with over 800,000 a year earlier – a 95 per cent drop.




MAG chief executive Charlie Cornish said: “The UK government is among the first to have set out proposals for a system that enables international travel to resume and should be applauded for taking the lead.

“After more than a year of almost total shutdown – and with so many jobs and so much economic value at stake – it’s really important we get people moving again once it is safe to do so.

“We now need Government to confirm the May 17 start date as soon as possible, along with the list of countries that fall into each ‘traffic light’ category.”

Mr Cornish added: “But the price tag attached to testing will hold back the recovery and hinder the sector’s ability to power the UK’s economic revival as a whole.”

“Where we can trust data from other countries, forcing people to spend money on expensive PCR tests, to obtain the very same information, would represent a colossal waste of everyone’s money.

“The Government should also be looking to the UK’s world-leading vaccination programme as a means to remove further barriers to travel to as many destinations as possible.”

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