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BA continues to lobby for unrestricted trans-Atlantic travel, warns of looming job losses

written by Hannah Dowling | April 27, 2021

British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle has again pushed the UK government to open its borders to vaccinated travellers from the US, following the EU’s decision to do so.

It comes despite the US keeping both the UK and much of the EU on its ‘Level Four: Do Not Travel’ advisory list – though this list by no means bans individuals from travelling.

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The EU announced earlier this week that despite the US list, it is gearing up to welcome vaccinated American travellers this summer.

In an opinion piece published in the UK tabloid paper The Sun on Sunday, Doyle again urged the UK government to do the same, and stated that the airline may be required to shed more jobs should its financial position not improve over the summer.

“To date, tens of thousands of jobs have already been lost and there are still thousands of people on furlough,” Doyle said.

“The future remains uncertain for our industry and my fear is that if the government doesn’t make safe travel simpler, there will be more job losses and more businesses will be lost.”

The British government is gearing up to re-open its borders to travellers on 17 May, and will re-introduce its ‘traffic light’ system to dictate what restrictions are applied to those travelling from certain countries.

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Travellers coming from any country on the ‘green’ list will face the least restrictions, though will still be required to present a negative PCR COVID-19 test upon arrival.

As it stands, there are 40 countries on the UK’s ‘Red List’ – which requires travellers from these countries to complete 10 days in a government-approved quarantine hotel.

However, it is expected that in the coming days that the UK government will reveal a revised version of this list, ahead of its 17 May re-opening.

The airline industry has spent months encouraging governments on both sides of the pond to make the reinstating of trans-Atlantic travel a priority, as it is historically a very lucrative market for airlines.

Before the COVID pandemic, the trans-Atlantic travel market was worth $9 billion per year to airlines.

Around 22 million people would travel between the US and UK per year, accounting for nearly 10 per cent of all global air travel.

“If we can create a framework for travel between the UK and US, and open up that market, that would set a benchmark that others could follow,” Doyle said earlier this month.

In his weekend opinion piece, the airline boss said he hopes the UK government “rewards Britons for their effort” in combating the virus through lockdowns, by opening its borders as soon as practicable to the EU and US.

Additionally, Doyle argued that current PCR testing requirements should not be imposed on vaccinated travellers.

“British people should be benefiting from the world-leading vaccination program that is not only stopping us getting seriously ill but is reducing the spread of the virus,” Doyle said in the piece.

“If you’ve been vaccinated and you are coming back home from a low-risk ‘green’ country where there’s also a high rate of vaccination and a low rate of infection, you shouldn’t have to take an expensive test as the government demands.”

Doyle’s argument echoes that of International Air Transport Association director general Willie Walsh, who earlier this month called the UK testing requirement “nonsense” and “a scam”.

Doyle and Walsh both argued that the cost of PCR tests have been driven up by private pharmaceutical companies, and that tests largely cost more than short-haul airline tickets as it stands.

“For people who haven’t been vaccinated, the science shows that a single rapid COVID test can detect almost all cases,” Doyle claims.

Finally, Doyle also argued that the UK government must throw its support behind one of the many digital vaccination verification passports and applications, or risk seeing airport queues at immigration spanning six or seven hours.

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