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Charles de Gaulle Bests Heathrow as Europe’s Busiest Airport

Airport cites the UK government’s 14-day quarantine and the lack of a testing program

October 30, 2020

Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport has overtaken London Heathrow as Europe’s busiest airport in the first nine months of 2020. The French hub hosted 19.3 million passengers during that time period compared with 19 million at LHR, with Amsterdam Schiphol and Frankfurt airports “close behind.”

Heathrow blames falling demand for air travel and the lack of COVID-19 testing program. “Britain is falling behind because we’ve been too slow to embrace passenger testing,” said John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow.

“European leaders acted quicker and now their economies are reaping the benefits. Paris has overtaken Heathrow as Europe’s largest airport for the first time ever, and Frankfurt and Amsterdam are quickly gaining ground.”

The UK government has come under fire for its use of what critics “flawed and outdated” models that have “significantly understated” the efficacy of testing on arrival as a means of preventing the spread of the coronavirus.

The government recently announced the launch of a Global Travel Taskforce to reduce the 14-day quarantine period which has been in place since June, drawing the ire of the aviation industry and travelers alike. But the country still lags behind its three continental rivals, all of which have testing regimes up and running.

As part of the push to adopt testing to open up the US-UK air travel corridor, United Airlines has announced a trial program of pre-travel testing on select transatlantic flights between New York’s Newark Liberty International Airport and Heathrow.

“Bringing in pre-departure COVID tests and partnering with our US allies to open a pilot airbridge to America will kickstart our economic recovery and put the UK back ahead of our European rivals,” according to Holland-Kaye.

The airport has started departure testing for Covid-19, but the rapid saliva tests are not currently accepted by most countries, which instead require a RT-PCR test. Transport Secretary Grant Schapps has said that he intends to introduce testing for passengers from high-risk countries by December 1.