Monday 7 June 2021 6:27 pm

Open up UK-US travel corridor, airline bosses plead ahead of G7 summit

The chief executives of all the airlines which run transatlantic services have come together to once again call for the reopening of the US-UK travel corridor.

Routes between the two countries are a central source of income to airlines such as American Airlines, British Airways, Delta Air Lines, JetBlue, United Airlines and Virgin Atlantic, which argue that reopening travel between the two countries will be vital to the economic recovery from the pandemic.

There had been hopes that due to its vaccination rate the US would be on the UK’s travel “green list”, but thus far travel between the two countries remains restricted.

The Department for Transport said it would continue to engage with the US on ways to safely reopen international travel.

Speaking ahead of this weekend’s G7 summit in Cornwall, bosses said that the reopening of the transatlantic market was “critical”.

The New York to London route is the third busiest in the world, with around 30 flights a day between the two in normal times.

British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle beseeched Boris Johnson and Joe Biden to address the issue when they meet at Carbis Bay in the coming days.

“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”, he said.

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For the UK, he added, this means “making the traffic light system fit for purpose, including a pathway to restriction-free travel for vaccinated travellers”.

The UK’s traffic light system has come under heavy criticism so far from an industry reeling from the last 15 months of disruption.

UK travel ‘traffic lights’, as of 08/06/21

Doug Parker, chairman and chief executive of American Airlines, said: “Reopening travel between the US and UK is a critical next step in both the travel industry and the global economy’s recovery.

“With vaccine availability continuing to expand, we know that our business and leisure customers are increasingly eager to cross the Atlantic, and we know that when they do, it will provide a major boost to the economies in the US, UK and around the world.”

A recent report from consultancy York Aviation said that a second ‘lost summer’ of international travel would result in £55.7bn in lost trade and £3.0bn in tourism GDP if reopening is delayed until September. 

A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “Our first priority is protecting the public and saving lives, and the traffic light system we have in place categorises countries and territories based on risk, using the latest data.

“We fully recognise the value of transatlantic routes. As set out in the Global Travel Taskforce, we continue to engage with international partners, including the US, to explore how we can open international travel safely.”