How lifting Covid restrictions is affecting the travel sector in the South

  • Video report by ITV News Meridian's Heather Edwards

Gatwick Airport is joining calls for there to be further financial support for the travel sector as restrictions on international travel ease.

From today anyone returning from amber list countries such as Spain who has been double jabbed will not have to quarantine. 

That’s apart from arrivals from France who will still need to quarantine because of concerns over the spread of the beta variant in the country.

  • Jonathan Pollard, Chief Commercial Officer at Gatwick Airport

Jonathan Pollard, Chief Commercial Officer, says: “It’s certainly a good step forward today, certainly the removal of quarantine is a positive benefit but the realities are that passengers are still having to undertake expensive testing and we know that is a considerable burden for people traveling this summer".

“France is just another shock, along with Portugal in the year, and these last minute announcements question whether the traffic light system is fit for purpose. We’ve made it clear that we are desperate for our passengers to have some clarity and confidence but these last minute changes arguably change that".

Monday saw around 140 flights taking off from Gatwick, up from 70 and 80 in previous weeks but normally there would be 900 flights.

  • Air passengers react to the rule changes

Passengers are also being encouraged to where masks in the airport and on the planes themselves.

Crawley MP Henry Smith, who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group for the future of Aviation, has called on the Government to extend the furlough scheme beyond September to March 2022 to avoid more jobs being put at risk.

It’s been supported by Gatwick Airport who say support is necessary to avoid difficult decisions being made.

Although the new rules are expected to encourage more people to fly, Gatwick is still running at a significantly reduced capacity. Credit: ITV News Meridian

A government spokesperson said: “We deliberately went long with our support to provide certainty to people and businesses over the summer, and that support, which is a substantial amount of funding, is continuing"

“The furlough scheme has already protected 11.6m jobs and is in place until the end of September. Eligible businesses in the tourism industry will also continue to benefit from a reduced rate of VAT until March 2022”

“Businesses can also continue to access other support including our Recovery Loan scheme - and we recently made cautious changes to the requirements for international travel which will support activity within the industry.”

On the rails there was still an abundance of quieter carriages; as commuting to London makes a slow but gradual return. The key issue was whether or not passengers would now be required to wear masks, as different providers began offering different rules.

In the Thames Valley there is still confusion because mask wearing is encouraged on Great Western and South Western trains.

On transport for London services: Crossrail from Reading to Paddington, Heathrow to Paddington and Heathrow Express it’s mandatory. It's also mandatory on the tube and buses in London. 

  • Rail passengers in Basingstoke explain their thoughts on wearing masks

However in Winchester, the subject of masks was being discussed by taxi driver Kalilur Rahman says: "I think the lifting of face masks... yeah it's great but being in a taxi which is a tiny little spot, I will still wear it because of the amount of people that I'm going to carry for me personally I wear wear one"

"And if I've got people in there and they have a face mask I'll ask them to wear it and if not I'll just keep the windows open".

  • Kalilur Rahman, Taxi Driver

Meanwhile controversial barriers installed on the M20 in Kent to help the flow of traffic to and from the continent, have been re-deployed.

Operation Brock came into force today as the lockdown restrictions ease and foreign travel becomes easier.

The system was initially designed in the event of a no-deal Brexit plan, and removed in April, but will return to help the flow of heavy traffic expected due to the school holidays and an expected increase in holidaymakers.