US and UK urged to reopen ‘vital’ transatlantic market

US president Joe Biden and UK prime minister Boris Johnson are being urged to reopen “vital” transatlantic flights in time for the summer peak.

Travel industry groups, airlines and airports on both sides of the Atlantic have written to both leaders urging a full resumption of the US-UK air travel sector.

If travel restrictions are lifted by June, the market is expected to start to recover and approach 70% of 2019 levels by the end of the year “buoyed primarily by summer season traffic”.

The letter says: “Given the deep economic, social and cultural ties between our two nations, we believe your meeting ahead of the G7 in early June would be an ideal opportunity for a joint announcement of the full reopening of the US-UK air travel market for both US and UK citizens.

“We stand ready to support the work of governments in the interim to secure a positive outcome.”

The letter points to the “enormous success” of the respective vaccine rollout in both countries.

“The trend for both countries is to have all adults who want a vaccination to have at least their first dose by the end of July,” it says.

“It is this success that now marks a significant opportunity for the UK and US to lead the world by demonstrating how to re-open this crucial air corridor safely.”

The industry organisations, including Airlines UK, Business Travel Association, UKinbound and Virgin Atlantic, describe safely reopening borders between the US and UK as “essential for both countries’ economic recovery from Covid-19”.

The letter adds: “Air travel is a critical enabler of trade between our countries that was worth $273 billion or £196 billion in 2019 and which included the transport of 900,000 tons of air cargo.

“The priority in any re-opening of air travel is public health. Since the onset of the pandemic, the travel and tourism sector has partnered closely with both governments to protect the health and safety of passengers and employees, working tirelessly to implement new travel restrictions and meet testing requirements.

“We are confident that the right tools now exist to enable a safe and meaningful restart to transatlantic travel.

“US and UK citizens and residents should benefit from the significant testing capability, and most importantly the vaccine roll-out, which means people are benefiting from the protection of their health and the reduction in transmission of Covid-19 that vaccination brings.

“These key tools were not available to us last year when travel restrictions were implemented.”

The letter highlights how the tourism and hospitality sector has been one of the hardest hit by Covid-19 in both economies.

“Safely restoring the US–UK air travel market will have a significant impact,” it adds.

“The return of transatlantic flying would not only have a significantly positive impact on our respective economies but will also reunite those who have been separated from their loved ones for over a year.

“In 2019, over 22 million passengers travelled between the US and UK with approximately four million of those travellers visiting friends and family.”

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