Hopes are fading for the creation of a US-UK travel corridor in time for this summer amid concerns of the spread of the delta variant of Covid-19.
Failure to resume transatlantic travel as previously hoped by the end of July would be a major blow to carriers such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic together with Heathrow.
Officials involved in discussions over a US-UK travel corridor – flagged ahead of the G7 Summit in Cornwall and started last week – suggested that it was increasingly unlikely a conclusion would be reached by the end of next month.
Talks are now expected to be extended into August and even September, according to the Financial Times, citing a combination of the spike of the delta variant in the UK, complexities in the US political system and uncertainty over the status of he AstraZeneca vaccine.
It had originally been hoped that an outline deal to reopen travel between the US and UK would be agreed by July 4.
But an unnamed UK official briefed on the talks told the newspaper: “This is not going to happen soon. We thought July was the earliest we might be able to get something in place but now it’s looking more like September.”
The UK was said to be pushing harder for an agreement than the US with another anonymous person familiar wit the talks claiming: “the Biden administration is in no hurry and the chances of anything happening before August now seem to be zilch.”
Americans have been prevented from travelling from the UK to the US since the start of the pandemic 15 months ago unless they are a green card holder, the immediate family of a US citizen or can apply for special exemption.
Those coming to the UK from the US face quarantine on arrival.
It had been hoped that a relaxation of restrictions would be hammered out after the US president agreed to set up a taskforce of US and UK officials to discuss how to best restart travel.
The FT reported a UK diplomat as saying: “AstraZenica is proving a real problem. If the US doesn’t recognise it, it means millions of Brits won’t be eligible to travel if we agree to a new corridor.”
Another complication is understood to be the different sections of the US government which have an influence on Covid-relate travel rules, including the Department of Transportation, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the State Department and the White House.
The White House said meetings over a US-UK travel corridor were “active and ongoing”.
A UK government spokesperson said the special working group was established “to help relaunch UK-US travel as soon as possible”.
They added: “Discussions between the working group are ongoing to ensure the UK and US closely share thinking and expertise on international travel policy going forward.”