Heathrow bosses warn Britain has ‘fallen behind’ as the airport reported a loss of £1.5 billion for the first nine months of the year.

It has led to the west London travel hub being overtaken by Paris Charles de Gaulle in France as the busiest in Europe, with Amsterdam Schiphol and Frankfurt in Germany close behind.

Airport chiefs claim this is because the UK has failed to adopt passenger testing during the coronavirus pandemic, despite a number of rivals on the continent implementing it.

Chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: ‘Britain is falling behind because we’ve been too slow to embrace passenger testing.

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‘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.

‘Let’s make Britain a winner again.

‘Bringing in pre-departure Covid tests and partnering with our US allies to open a pilot air bridge to America will kickstart our economic recovery and put the UK back ahead of our European rivals.’

Passenger numbers between July and September dropped by more than 84% in comparison with the same period in 2019.

And Heathrow’s third-quarter revenue fell by 72% year on year to £239 million, while earnings before tax and interest dropped to £37 million.

But the airport insisted its finances ‘remain robust’, with £4.5 billion of liquidity.

It said its cash reserves are ‘sufficient for the next 12 months even under an extreme scenario with no revenue’.

Industry body ACI Europe has warned nearly 200 airports across the continent face insolvency in the coming months unless demand for air travel starts to recover by the end of the year.

And budget airline EasyJet has called for support from the Government amid warnings it will lose £845 million this year.

It comes after transport secretary Grant Shapps launched a taskforce earlier this month to develop ways of reducing the 14-day self-isolation period for people arriving in the UK from locations not on the list of ‘travel corridors’.

He said the Government is considering a ‘test and release regime’ which would still involve a quarantine period of at least a week.

But the Prime Minister, transport secretary and health secretary have all insisted testing at points of entry will only identify 7% of Covid-19 infections.

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