Aviation chiefs unite to demand US-UK air corridor

Aviation leaders have united to call for a reopening of transatlantic travel between the UK and US ahead of the G7 summit in Cornwall this week.

The chief executives of British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and JetBlue joined the heads of Heathrow Airport and the US Travel Association to push for a UK-US travel corridor.

They insisted the “world-leading vaccination programmes” in the UK and US present “a clear opportunity” to safely open up travel between the countries.

The aviation bosses also urged the UK government “to consider removing” the need for travellers returning from ‘green list’ countries to complete a PCR test on arrival, and called on the US government “to consider lifting” entry requirements for UK travellers who are fully vaccinated or who provide a negative Covid test ahead of arrival in the US.

British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle said: “President Biden and Boris Johnson must address the transatlantic ban that is separating our two low-risk countries.

“We urgently need them to look to the science and base their judgements on a proper risk analysis, allowing us 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.”

Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss insisted: “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 the UK and the US.

“We urge Prime Minister Johnson and President Biden to lead the way in opening the skies.”

American Airlines chief executive Doug Parker agreed: “Reopening travel between the US and UK is a critical next step in the travel industry’s and the economy’s recovery. Our business and leisure customers are increasingly eager to cross the Atlantic.”

Delta Air Lines chief executive Ed Bastian said: “The infection rates of our countries indicate an extraordinarily low risk to travel between the US and the UK provided travellers are vaccinated or can produce a negative PCR test prior to boarding a flight.”

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: “The scientific data shows transatlantic travel and trade can be reopened safely. Every day policy makers delay puts jobs [and] livelihoods at risk unnecessarily.”

United chief executive Scott Kirby noted: “Experts have encouraged governments, businesses and the public to follow the science.

“United and other airlines have done that and implemented the necessary safety protocols to re-open key international routes like the air corridor between our two countries. We are ready.”

JetBlue chief executive Robin Hayes added: “The surge in travel in recent weeks has been remarkable and we’re confident demand for travel between the US and UK would follow a similar recovery pattern with an established travel corridor.

“The UK should implement revised border restrictions similar to those that have already been successful in many countries.”

The US is the UK’s largest trading partner and the airline chiefs noted a recent York Aviation study estimated a second lost summer of international travel could cost the UK economy almost £56 billion in lost trade and £3 billion in lost tourism revenue.

US Travel Association president and chief executive Roger Dow said: “The millions of travel-supported US jobs lost to the pandemic cannot be replaced without the return of international visitors, and the UK is our number one overseas market.”

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