Joe Biden’s White House has confirmed that fully vaccinated UK and EU passengers will be able to travel to the US from November, sending aviation stocks soaring this afternoon.
The news sent shares in IAG, owner of British Airways, up by 11 per cent at the close today, while Air France, KLM and Lufthansa are all up by around six per cent.
Responding to the announcement, Heathrow Airport chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “Connectivity between the US and the UK is part of the bedrock of the global economy. The Prime Minister has secured a massive win for Global Britain in getting these links restarted.”
British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle said the announcement “marks an historic moment and one which will provide a huge boost to Global Britain”.
“We are immensely grateful to the Prime Minister and his government for all the hard work that’s gone into securing this deal with the US, and which builds upon last Friday’s announcement on the lifting of many travel restrictions,” he said.
The travel ban was first implemented by Donald Trump 18 months ago at the start of the pandemic and had been maintained by Biden.
Under the current travel regime, only American citizens, their families, green card holders and people with national interest exemptions can enter the US.
Shai Weiss, CEO, Virgin Atlantic said that the easing of travel restrictions in the US marks “a major milestone” for “the reopening of travel at scale across the Atlantic.”
“The US has been our heartland for more than 37 years since our first flight to New York City in 1984. We are simply not Virgin without the Atlantic. After 18 months of uncertainty, we cannot wait to welcome our customers back onboard, flying them safely to their favourite US destination,” continued Weiss.
White House pandemic coordinator Jeff Zients said “with science and public health as our guide, we have developed a new international air travel system that both enhances the safety of Americans here at home and enhances the safety of international air travel”.
“Our customers should now feel that the world is re-opening to them and they can book their trips with confidence.”
American Express Global Business travel executive Andrew Crawley said there was “huge pent-up demand” for transatlantic business travel, after 550 days of shut borders between the US and Europe.
“We fully expect to see a sustained spike in bookings. It is a positive step forward for global economic recovery and we await further details from the White House.”
Biden’s announcement comes after he and Boris Johnson agreed in June to launch a UK-US travel taskforce to look at opening an air corridor between the countries.
It appeared that little progress had been made during these talks, with Johnson telling journalists yesterday that it was unlikely any UK-US travel deal would be sealed this week as he travels to America for the United Nations General Assembly.
The news will be widely welcomed by business groups across the UK, with financial services lobby TheCityUK yesterday outlining the importance of cross-Atlantic travel.
TheCityUK chief executive Miles Celic said: “We regard the safe reopening of travel routes to major business centres as a key underpinning of the UK’s international competitiveness.
“While we remain extremely mindful of the ongoing global health challenge, we would like the government to work with the US to reopen travel between the UK and US. This would help UK-based firms in our industry power the recovery of the wider economy.”
Covid-19 cases are surging across the US, particularly in Texas and Florida as vaccination rates remain stagnant in some parts of the country.
The US is currently placed on the amber list, meaning that double-jabbed people will not have to quarantine in the UK when arriving back.
Chief markets analyst at markets.com Neil Wilson said: “Whether or not the US makes the green list or not come October is another matter.
“I would assume the loosening of the rules – a win for the EU and UK – is based on the quid pro quo that they will make it easy for their citizens to travel to the US. Levels of vaccinations in the US are high enough to outweigh concerns about cases.”