British Airways has conducted its first quarantine-free flights to ‘green list’ destinations for eager British holidaymakers and business travellers, as the UK government lifted travel restrictions on Monday.
The first BA flight out of Heathrow on Monday morning was flight BA492 to Gibraltar, which took at 7:10am.
Throughout the day, the British flag carriers performed a number of flights to other ‘green list’ destinations, including one flight to Lisbon, three flights to Faro, and one flight to Funchal in Madeira. The airline has suspended flights to Tel Aviv.
On 17 May 2019, in pre-pandemic times, the airline operated hundreds of flights, compared with just 70 departures that it planned to operate on Monday, highlighting the devastating impact that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the airline industry.
To mark the occasion, on Monday morning, British Airways and Heathrow Airport hosted a virtual conference from British Airways’ home at Terminal 5 with its CEOs, Sean Doyle and John Holland-Kaye.
Speaking during the conference, Doyle, British Airways chairman and CEO, said, “Today, the first day of a return to international travel, is a special day for many people because for so long now families have been separated, the business has suffered, and we know that our customers haven’t been able to take the breaks abroad that they’ve wanted.
“After more than a year of limited flying, we’re pleased to be back in the skies – albeit with a very small number of flights.”
At the conference, Doyle also reiterated British Airways’ calls to the UK government to include the US in its next version of the green list, in understanding of the lucrative nature of trans-Atlantic travel for airlines and businesses across both sides of the pond.
“We need the government to start progressively assigning green status to many more low-risk countries … It’s clear to us that America should be on the green list, and the importance of the US and UK cannot be underestimated,” he said.
“Prohibiting travel to and from the US not only stops loved ones being together, it has a considerable cost to the economy. And we reckon every day we’re shut it’s costing £32 million per day.”
Last week, World of Aviation reported that the chief executives of major airlines across the US and UK 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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
Additional reporting by Airlinerwatch.