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International airlines urge joint US-EU COVID-19 testing programme for travellers

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By Lauren Chadwick
British Airways planes parked up at London City Airport, in east London, Thursday, March 26, 2020.
British Airways planes parked up at London City Airport, in east London, Thursday, March 26, 2020.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Matt Dunham

Four chief executives from major international airlines have sent a letter to the United States and European Union requesting a joint COVID-19 testing programme so travel can resume across the Atlantic.

The letter was signed by several airlines including the International Airlines Group (which owns British Airways and Iberia), Lufthansa, United Airlines and American Airlines.

"We are writing with urgency to you as leaders of the response to COVID-19 to request the safe and swift restoration of air travel between the United States and Europe," the letter said.

"We urge you to consider adopting a joint U.S.-EU COVID-19 testing program to enhance safety and build confidence in critical transatlantic passenger air services."

The letter, which was signed by four CEOs, was addressed to US Vice President Mike Pence and EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson.

Airlines have been severely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis, as it brought international travel to a standstill. Many major airlines have cut thousands of jobs due to the pandemic.

Airline revenue has plunged amid the crisis, with many suffering more than one billion euros in revenue losses. The highly lucrative transatlantic route has come to something of a standstill with borders closed between the US and EU.

"Given the unquestioned importance of transatlantic air travel to the global economy as well as to the economic recovery of our businesses, we believe it is critical to find a way to re-open air services between the U.S. and Europe," the four CEOs wrote.

The European Union began opening external borders in July, but the United States is currently not on the list of approved countries that can enter the EU. The US is currently the most impacted country by coronavirus with nearly 3.9 million cases and more than 140,000 deaths.