Airlines demand trans-Atlantic travel restarts, as Biden prepares for G-7 trip
June 5, 2021
By Lina Saigol, MarketWatch
The bosses of six airlines offering U.S.-U.K. passenger services have called for trans-Atlantic travel restrictions to be lifted, saying high COVID-19 vaccination rates in both countries should allow travel to restart safely after more than a year of border closures.
Reopening trans-Atlantic travel will be essential to “igniting economic recovery,” the chief executives of American Airlines AAL, +0.16%, IAG IAG, -0.84% -owned British Airways, Delta Air Lines DAL, +2.01%, JetBlue JBLU, +0.89%, United Airlines UAL, +0.80% and Virgin Atlantic, said in a joint statement on Monday.
The plea comes ahead of this week’s meeting between U.S. President Joe Biden and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the G-7 meeting in Cornwall, southwest England.
“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.
The airlines highlighted an analysis from the U.S. Travel Association that suggested that it will cost the U.S. economy $325 billion in total losses and 1.1 million jobs by the end of 2021, if international travel remains restricted. They also pointed to a separate report from York Aviation that said a second ‘lost summer’ of international travel would result in £55.7 billion ($78.8 billion) in lost trade if reopening is delayed until September.
Virgin Atlantic Chief Executive Shai Weiss said there is no reason for the U.S. to be absent from the U.K.’s ‘green list’ of safe foreign travel destinations, meaning arriving passengers wouldn’t have to quarantine. The U.S. is currently on the ‘amber list,’ which means arrivals need to self-isolate for 10 days and take two pre-booked COVID-19 tests.
“There is no reason for the U.S. to be absent from the U.K. ‘green’ list. This overly cautious approach fails to reap the benefits of the successful vaccination programs in both the U.K. and the U.S.,” Weiss said.
Vaccination efforts in both countries have picked up. More than 63% of adults in the U.S. have received at least one dose, while about half of adults — 139 million people — have been fully vaccinated. In the U.K., almost 68 million have received shots — more than 75% of the country’s adult population.
The airlines said they would back the requirement for passengers to show proof of vaccination, or testing for those who have not yet been vaccinated, to help lift restrictions on travel between the U.S. and the U.K.
“Our modeling studies conducted with Mayo Clinic put the risk of transmission on a plane traveling between the U.K. and U.S. at one in 1 million,” said Delta Air Lines Chief Executive Ed Bastian.
Their comments come just days after U.K. health secretary Matt Hancock defended the government’s decision to remove Portugal from the travel ‘green list,’ saying that the U.K. needs to be “tough” on international travel rules to protect the progress of lockdown easing, amid concerns over rising cases and mutations of the virus that causes COVID-19.
The decision sparked anger from airlines and travel companies, with Heathrow Chief Executive John Holland-Kaye accusing the U.K. government of “all but guaranteeing another lost summer for the travel sector.”