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Airlines push for US-UK travel bubble: How it could work


British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are pushing for a travel bubble between the US and the UK, with the aim of a full opening of transatlantic routes from May 17.

The airlines want to resume travel between the two countries without requirements for expensive COVID-19 tests and quarantines on both sides of the Atlantic, as US airlines look to capitalise on a surging vaccination rollout and falling coronavirus cases.

As America continues to vaccinate its citizens quickly, domestic travel is gathering pace but international travel stays largely grounded, which has affected European airlines who are dependent on overseas service.

"Large US domestic markets are doing great," Alex Irving, an aviation analyst at Bernstein told the Wall Street Journal.

"Of course, Europe doesn't have that. Ultimately it depends on vaccine rollouts when governments will be comfortable unlocking their borders."

In the UK, the British government is preparing to release details of plans to allow residents to fly internationally as early as next month.




This week, aviation executives in the UK pointed to new guidance from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention saying fully vaccinated travellers can fly again with low risk to themselves and others.

In the US, talks are said to be under way to discover what conditions are needed for lifting restrictions on international travel.

The travel industry has discussed the idea of easing US-UK. travel requirements before, but vaccine success on both sides of the Atlantic has spurred them to push harder now.

According to a report in Business Traveller in the UK, airline CEOs, joined by the CEO of London Heathrow, John Holland-Kaye, said the transatlantic routes are essential for British business, and that they needed fair warning of what the British government was planning to give them the opportunity to prepare for the reopening of the transatlantic routes, to prepare facilities, return parked aircraft to service and bring back furloughed staff.

British Airways Chief Executive Sean Doyle cautioned the UK government not to "waste the opportunity of having had an incredibly successful vaccine rollout".

"Within the UK government's traffic light framework, we have the opportunity to put the UK and US on a 'green' basis and get the economy moving again as of May 17," Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic added.

Mr Weiss said that the airlines would rely on the "US and UK governments to expedite the specific measures", but "the global success of our respective vaccination programs coupled with proportionate testing regimes means we can open these vital links between the UK's largest trading partners and form the international basis for a post-pandemic movement of trade and goods ahead of the G7 in June."

Asked about rising levels of COVID-19 in popular US destinations such as Florida, Mr Doyle said: "We've got to look forward to May 17 and anticipate how much progress the US will have made in terms of vaccination programs because we know that's the most effective way of dealing with surges either regionally or locally. On the basis of what we see looking forward with the vaccination program we think the case for opening up the entire US as a single system is very compelling."




Originally published as Airlines push for US-UK travel bubble: How it could work

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