Airline bosses demand reopening of transatlantic travel

Airline bosses demand reopening of transatlantic travel
‘The transatlantic ban that is separating our two low-risk countries is at a major cost to our citizens and economies’ – Sean Doyle, CEO, British Airways

Ahead of the visit of Joe Biden to the G7 Summit in Cornwall, the chief executives of all the UK-US airlines have issued a joint call for the reopening of transatlantic travel.

British visitors to the US have been banned by presidential decree for the past 15 months, while arrivals from “amber list” America to the UK are currently required to self-isolate for 10 days.

At an event hosted by Heathrow airport, the CEOs said that the successful vaccination programmes in both the UK and US provided “a clear opportunity to safely open up travel between these two low-risk countries”.

Sean Doyle, chairman and chief executive of British Airways said: “As President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Boris Johnson meet this week, they must address the transatlantic ban that is separating our two low-risk countries at a major cost to our citizens and economies.

“We urgently need them to look to the science and base their judgements on a proper risk analysis, allowing us all to benefit from the protection offered by our successful vaccine rollouts.

“In the UK this means making the traffic light system fit for purpose, including a pathway to restriction-free travel for vaccinated travellers, and getting rid of complexity surrounding ‘amber list’ countries, eliminating quarantine and reducing the number of tests passengers are required to take.”

Virgin Atlantic’s chief executive, Shai Weiss, said: “There is no reason for the US to be absent from the UK ‘green list’. This overly cautious approach fails to reap the benefits of the successful vaccination programmes in both the UK and the US.”

The risk of coronavirus transmission on a plane travelling between the UK and US was put at one in one million by Ed Bastian, the CEO of Delta. He said: “As we see people reclaiming their lives and reconnecting with loved ones, it’s clear that the infection rates of our countries indicate an extraordinarily low risk to travel between the US the UK, provided travellers are vaccinated or can produce a negative PCR test prior to boarding a flight.”

The host of the meeting, John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow, said: “We cannot continue to keep locked-up indefinitely.

“Politicians should seize on the successful vaccination programmes in our two countries to begin looking to a future where we manage Covid rather than letting it manage us.”

Announcing a further tightening of travel restrictions last week, the transport secretary, Grant Shapps, said: “The public has always known travel will be different this year and we must continue to take a cautious approach to reopening international travel in a way that protects public health and the vaccine rollout.”

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