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Global airlines again lobby to ease trans-Atlantic travel restrictions

written by Hannah Dowling | June 8, 2021

Aerial photo of Terminal 3 at London Heathrow airport (LHR) in the United Kingdom.

Airlines bosses from across both sides of the pond have again urged governments to ease travel restrictions and allow for quarantine-free travel between the US and UK, in a joint virtual press conference.

The chief executives of American Airlines, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and JetBlue Airways joined together in a rare feat of collaboration to conduct a virtual press conference to encourage the UK and US governments to ease travel restrictions and re-start the US$9 billion trans-Atlantic travel market.

Currently, most travellers entering the UK from the US must quarantine for 10 days upon arrival, while the US has continued its policy to ban nearly all non-US citizens who have been to the UK in the last 14 days from entering into the country.

The UK has said it won’t change its policy on travellers from the US “at the moment”, while it looks like the US will continue its current policy until at least 4 July.

However, the airlines argued that high vaccination uptake in both countries now makes trans-Atlantic travel safe against the spread of COVID-19, and should be prioritised by the governments on both sides for a multitude of reasons.

“I think there’s much more at stake here than a holiday, it’s about trade, it’s about visiting friends and relatives, and it’s about getting back and doing business and re-employing people,” said British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle.

Analysts believe that the re-start of trans-Atlantic travel is more crucial for UK-based carriers as they don’t have a domestic network to help prop up their recovery, as is the case in the US.


Meanwhile, at the virtual conference, JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said “the human cost is just I think devastating”, noting that vaccinated individuals in both countries now “haven’t seen their kids, grandkids for over a year now”.

Doug Parker, chief executive of American Airlines, said that continuing to impose restrictions on UK travellers “doesn’t make much sense anymore”.

He added that it is a widely held consensus that “vaccinated travellers are safe to travel”.

United’s CEO Scott Kirby said the airline could add “pretty significant capacity” within four weeks of a decision being announced to reinstate US-UK travel.

“We are in the peak travel season for travel between the US and UK, and every single day that goes by is a day lost for the recovery,” he said.

The news follows a string of lobbying attempts by airlines to get both governments to budge.

Last month, World of Aviation reported that these same airlines from across both sides of the Atlantic 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.

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.

A month prior, the chief executives from British Airways, Virgin Atlantic and Heathrow Airport joined forces to plead for the UK government to introduce a trans-Atlantic travel corridor within a month.

The aviation industry leaders joined in a rare joint plea to UK Prime Minister Boris 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.

It came shortly after PM Johnson unveiled dubious plans to restart international travel to and from Britain, with the current ‘traffic light’ system of restrictions.


  • Ben


    When I see the credentials for CEO’s to be doleing out public health advice I’ll actually give these people the time of day. They just want to grab the cash cow, never mind the fact that large scale international travel is what got us into this mess to begin with and it will never end until the virus is isolated and killed off. It’s sad anf frustrating the toll its taking on people and businesses, but if they don’t remove the threat it has the potential to continue mutating into something that we can’t control as well as what we have (and that’s harder than what we started with). The virus only has one job, infect as many people as possible and it will mutate to support its goal… evolution and all that.

    • John


      Well said. Sadly, I will remain grounded for quite a while yet.

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