The boss of Britain's biggest airport Heathrow said today that new rules requiring travellers to England to have a pre-departure Covid-19 test should replace the country's quarantine requirement in the next few months as the pandemic eases. 

Travel has been wiped out by Covid-19, leaving many airlines and airports fighting for survival. 

Passenger numbers in Britain have been decimated by rules requiring people arriving from most foreign countries to quarantine for 10 days. 

The UK government tightened the rules for travellers today when it said that people entering England would from next week be required to present a negative Covid-19 test result to protect against new strains of the coronavirus. 

Heathrow's chief executive John Holland-Kaye said he welcomed new rules to keep the UK safe but added that having pre-departure testing on top of quarantine should only be a temporary measure. 

"There needs to be a plan for what's going to come next so that we can start to get aviation back to some level of normality while keeping people safe," he said. 

"What we'd like to see is that testing before you take off becomes the standard as an alternative to quarantine," he added.

He said the combination of quarantine and testing would only be tenable for a month or two, and that a lighter regime should be put in place as infection rates and deaths start falling and vaccinations ramp up to help airlines and UK trade recover. 

Heathrow is the UK's biggest port by value but with few passenger flights it is struggling. The airport's passenger numbers fell 88% in November, the last month for which data is available. 

Mr Holland-Kaye also said vaccination programmes in Britain and other countries gave him hope for a travel recovery this year. 

"We'll see flights starting to come back and passenger numbers building up through the summer and then into the autumn," he said today.