Countries carrying out temperature checks on arriving travellers are “perceived as being safer” than the UK, according to the boss of Heathrow Airport.
Chief executive John Holland-Kaye called for passengers to be screened in a bid to boost demand for air travel.
In a statement published by The Aviation Club, he said: “The crisis came on so rapidly that each country set its own health screening standards, with little co-ordination.
“Rightly or wrongly, those that require temperature checks are perceived as being safer than others, such as the UK.”
Some Britons returning to the UK have lambasted the lack of testing and medical advice upon arriving back on home soil.
The advice for everyone – whether or not they have recently entered the country – is to stay at home and only leave if essential.
However, other countries have introduced strict quarantine measures for arriving passengers.
This includes in the US and New Zealand, where travellers must isolate themselves for 14 days upon arrival.
Scientific advice has been very clear that any restrictions or measures would have a negligible impact of the progression of the virus at the borderHome Secretary Priti Patel
Mr Holland-Kaye said that, until there is a cure or vaccine for Covid-19, it is likely that travel between countries “will only happen if each considers the other to be low risk”.
He argued that the UK “needs to be at the forefront” of a new biosecurity standard for air travel as it has one of the world’s largest aviation sectors.
It is “critical” that people travel “without the need for quarantine” to accelerate the recovery from the pandemic, Mr Holland-Kaye claimed.
He warned that it “cannot be a long-term solution” to leave the middle seats on planes empty – as suggested by easyJet – because of the financial and environmental implications.
He went on: “Maybe it is better that, as with airport security, the test for whether someone is safe to fly should take place at the entrance to the airport or at airport security, so that we can minimise the need for social distancing on the plane or at the gate.”
Lufthansa has announced that all passengers must cover their nose and mouth with a mask or scarf while travelling on their flights from Monday.
The order will apply until at least the end of August.
The German airline has grounded the majority of it aircraft, but is still operating two flights per day between Heathrow and Frankfurt.
The news comes as the Home Secretary came under fire from Commons Home Affairs Committee chairman Yvette Cooper for being unable to provide an estimate of the proportion of people arriving in the country with coronavirus.
Priti Patel said there was no testing at the border, adding: “Our overall approach to international travel and checks at the borders have consistently been informed by the scientific and medical advice provided by Sage (Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies) and Public Health England.”
Ms Cooper said there “must” be an estimate as it would be needed to decide on quarantine and self-isolation rules at the border.
Ms Patel said: “Scientific advice has been very clear that any restrictions or measures would have a negligible impact of the progression of the virus at the border given the significant reduction of the numbers of people arriving in.”
Listing countries including Germany, New Zealand, South Korea, Italy, Singaore, Australia, Canada, Greece – which require passengers to self-isolate on arrival – Ms Cooper asked: “Is our science different from theirs?”
Ms Patel said “everything is under review”, adding: “We are not similar to many of those other countries in terms of travel and passenger flows.”
Urging the department to explain the different approach, Ms Cooper said: “It is still quite troubling that the Home Office itself doesn’t seem to have questioned or quizzed or challenged any of the advice or data or information that you’ve been given.”
Ms Patel replied: “It’s wrong to characterise that the Home Office has not been probing, we work with our scientific adviser in the department who is directly represented on Sage.”
Between April 16 and 22 the number of air passengers arriving in the UK was down by 99% compared with the same time last year, and 63.6% of those arriving were British nationals, Ms Patel told MPs.
Passengers coming by sea were down 88.7% compared to same time in 2019 and international rail passengers down 94%.
As of Friday, the number of people coming into the country was 9,906.