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Airlines increase calls for restriction-free trans-Atlantic travel

written by Hannah Dowling | May 12, 2021
photo – British Airways

Airlines from across both sides of the Atlantic have joined together to call for a meeting between the governments of the UK and US in order to set a date for the re-opening of bilateral, restriction-free trans-Atlantic travel.

The chief executives of major airlines across the US and UK have joined forces to pen an open letter to Pete Buttigieg, US Secretary of Transportation, and Grant Shapps, the UK Transport Secretary to discuss the imminent return of quarantine-free trans-Atlantic travel – a notoriously profitable sector for airlines on both sides of the pond.

The letter was signed by chief executives representing American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, JetBlue Airways, and US trade union Airlines for America.

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In the letter, the aviation CEOs requested a summit between the UK and US, for the purpose of defining “a path to safely and expeditiously reopen trans-Atlantic travel in a manner that aligns with public health objectives”.

“We are confident that the aviation industry possesses the right tools, based on data and science, to enable a safe and meaningful restart to trans-Atlantic travel,” the letter reads.

However, the airline chiefs stated that “the airline industry needs adequate lead time to establish a plan for restarting air services, including scheduling aircraft and crews for these routes as well as for marketing and selling tickets”.

“Safely reopening borders between the US and UK is essential for the continued economic recovery of both nations,” the letter added.

“The return of trans-Atlantic air travel would not only have a significant, positive impact on our respective economies but will also reunite those who have been separated from their loved ones for over a year.”

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Additionally, the letter encouraged the use of digital health certification applications that have been widely tested by various airlines over the previous few months, in order to streamline safe travel between the countries.

The group collectively suggested such a summit to take place prior to the G7 summit, which is scheduled to take place between 11 and 13 June in Cornwall, UK.

It follows a very similar letter, written earlier in the week to US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in which a coalition of US and European travel businesses called for the full reopening of the trans-Atlantic air travel market “as soon as safely possible”.

The letter, signed by the US Chamber of Commerce, Airlines for America, Global Business Travel Association, Air Line Pilots Association, Virgin Atlantic, Association of UK Airlines, and Aerospace Industries Association, among others, argued that an already scheduled meeting between the two world leaders in June would be an “ideal opportunity for a joint announcement of the full reopening of the US-UK air travel market for both US and UK citizens”.

As it stands, travellers from the US are required to quarantine for 10 days upon arrival in the UK, and complete two COVID-19 tests.

Meanwhile, the US on Monday lowered its travel advisory for the UK to ‘Level Three: Reconsider Travelling”, from “Level Four: Do Not Travel”.

Last month, World of Aviation reported that the CEOs of British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Heathrow Airport similarly joined forces to plead for the UK government to introduce a trans-Atlantic travel corridor.

The aviation industry leaders wrote to Prime Minister Johnson, arguing that the successful rollout of vaccination programs across both nations should result in travel between the UK and US being a priority once non-essential movement of people is allowed.

Before the COVID pandemic, the transatlantic travel market was worth US$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.

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