The bosses of some of the UK’s biggest aviation firms have called for the government to make sure that the US is on the “green list” for international travel from 17 May.
Speaking at a press conference this morning, British Airways chief exec Sean Doyle, along with Shai Weiss and John Holland-Kaye, his counterparts at Virgin Atlantic and Heathrow Airport, added that ministers should this week indicate which other countries were likely to be on the list to give the industry time to prepare.
“We have an opportunity to put the US and the UK on a green status and get the economy moving again”, Weiss said.
“The global success of our respective vaccination programmes, coupled with proportionate testing regimes can open these vital links between the two, and form the international basis for a post pandemic movement of people and goods, ahead of the G7 in June.”
By May, they said, the US will have vaccinated 200m people, raising the prospect of restriction free travel with one of the UK’s largest trading partners.
But if no such air link is forthcoming until September, they warned that it could cost the UK economy a total of £2.4bn – £23m a day.
The press conference, a rare joint appearance by some of the industry’s biggest hitters, came a day after the government suggested that the 17 May restart target could slip back.
“Taking into account the latest situation with variants and the evidence about the efficacy of vaccines against them, we will confirm in advance whether non-essential international travel can resume on 17 May, or whether we will need to wait longer before lifting the outbound travel restriction,” the government said in an update.
The Global Travel Taskforce, a cross-government body, is due to report its recommendations for restarting travel on 12 April.
It has already confirmed that a traffic light system will operate to determine the level of restrictions for each destination.
Weiss also cited Israel and the Caribbean as potential “green list” candidates, but all agreed that the category would grow swiftly as the worldwide vaccination drive continues.
Holland-Kaye added that if the UK did not take advantage of the strength of its vaccine rollout so far, it would affect its future competitiveness.
“We know there is enormous pent up demand for travel – it’s the thing people have been looking forward to during their lockdown weeks, and we now have the tools in place to safety reunite families and friends, and to get businesses moving again.
“If we waste this opportunity, then it will be other trading countries who ensure that they do not, and that will jeopardise the UK’s economic recovery. So there’s no reason now to delay international travel at scale beyond 17 May.”