The boss of Britain’s second-biggest airport is calling on the transport secretary to scrap the complex and unpopular passenger locator form for fully vaccinated arrivals.
On Monday Grant Shapps announced that arrivals to the UK who are fully vaccinated will no longer need book a post-arrival test.
But the passenger locator form will remain. Mr Shapps said: “It is our only way of distinguishing between those who are vaccinated and those who are unvaccinated when they use e-gates to come into this country.”
This assertion has surprised airlines, rail firms and ferry companies, who are accustomed to checking the vaccination certificates of travellers who are leaving the UK to ensure they are compliant with the destination’s rules.
Stewart Wingate, chief executive of Gatwick, said: “It will take some time for consumer confidence to fully return. We urge government to remove the passenger locator form.”
Regular travellers canvassed at the Sussex airport supported his view. One passenger, flying from Gatwick to Montego Bay, said: “It’s an appalling form.
“You can’t complete it unless you put in your seat number, but you can’t get that until you check in – which you can’t do until you’ve filled in the form completely.
“So you just make a seat number up, which renders that answer pointless.”
Mr Shapps told Parliament: “We will also simplify the passenger locator form, making it quicker and easier to complete, and from the end of February we will also make it more convenient by giving people an extra day to fill it out before they travel.”
His explanation on why the form would still be required centred on the use of e-gates at airports.
“A lot of work has been done to automate the e-gate so that it reads the passport number, refers back to the passenger locator form and knows whether that individual has had to take a pre-departure test – which people who have not been vaccinated have to take – and, indeed, whether they have to take a day two test.
“It is there for a critical reason.”
Yet since the vaccination status of travellers could be checked “upstream”, at the departure port, airport or international rail station, the e-gate issue does not appear to be relevant.
Gatwick’s chief executive also urged ministers to “keep the remaining barriers to free travel under constant review and remove them at the earliest opportunity”.
Mr Shapps told Parliament on Monday: “We promised that we would not keep these measures in place a day longer than was necessary.
“It is obvious to me now that border testing for vaccinated travellers has outlived its usefulness.”
Between his statement and 4am on 11 February, when fully vaccinated travellers no longer need it, an estimated 2.5 million arrivals to the UK will pay an estimated £60m to testing companies for the redundant tests.
A spokesperson for the Department for Transport said: “We have always been clear that the aim of the January review was to provide certainty and stability for the 2022 spring and summer seasons.
“The government has delivered this – announcing significant changes to our Covid-border regime in time for the February half-term holidays and simplifying the passenger locator form.”