Transatlantic traffic between the UK and US should “lead the way in opening up” travel, with the rest of Europe to follow the “template” of the system between the countries.

That is according to British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle who suggested there is “an immediate opportunity” to restart flights to the US from Britain despite entry to UK and other European citizens being banned at present.

Speaking at a CAPA Centre for Aviation online summit, Doyle argued: “If you look at the vaccination programmes of the UK and US they more or less mirror each other.

“That should lead the UK-US to lead the way in opening up air travel.”

He insisted: “There is an immediate opportunity to open up to the US. With the progress in Europe on vaccination in the second quarter [of the year], then that [the UK-US] could be a template others follow.”

Doyle said: “The sheer amount of economic activity enabled by [a UK-US opening] is significant and we are impressing that upon the UK government.

“In the near term, the UK-US should be leading the way in opening up.”

He added: “I hope the US looks at the repeal of Section 212F sooner rather than later.”

Section 212F of the US Immigration and Nationality Act, invoked by President Trump to suspend entry to foreign citizens including from the UK, Ireland and the EU Schengen Area, remains in force barring travel to the US for Europeans.

Asked how much BA would benefit from an early opening to the US from Britain, Doyle said: “I’m confident we will be highly competitive. If we can get going earlier than the pack even better.”

He cited an Irish expression –“If you want to buy the farm, you have to walk the land – and said: “That is true when it comes to travel, business activity and investment.”