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What are air bridges? And can they save your summer holiday?

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Spain could be one of the country's the UK agrees air bridges with.
Spain could be one of the country's the UK agrees air bridges with.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Joan Mateu
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With holidaymakers keen to go abroad this summer after months of lockdown, many are keeping an ear out for news of air bridges, which would permit them to travel without coronavirus restrictions.

But what are they and are they a good idea?

What is an air bridge?

Air bridges, also called travel corridors, is a way to allow tourists from two countries to travel between destinations without needing to quarantine on arrival or return.

It is a reciprocal arrangement that would allow UK holidaymakers to visit France without restrictions and vice versa.

They are likely to be agreed and work best between countries with low COVID-19 transmission rates.

Which countries are likely to agree to them?

The UK is expected to make an announcement on air bridges on June 29. British transport minister Grant Shapps said on Friday air bridges are a "massive priority".

It is so far unclear which countries could agree to the pact with the UK.

The Daily Telegraph newspaper said it understood Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in talks with Portugal, Greece, and France, among other countries, to put air bridges in place.

When would they start?

It's expected to come into force from July 4.

Kathy Willens/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
The aviation industry has taken a massive hit during the pandemic.Kathy Willens/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

A 'political invention'?

Air bridges are a "political invention", Cord Schellenberg, an independent aviation expert, told Euronews.

"I don't see any air bridge I just see airlines offering tickets and people booking tickets. And the government gives rules where I can fly in corona times and where I shouldn't fly but still the people decide what they do," he explained.

"The government defines what countries you can't go to as advice."

Additionally, he said in aviation terms an air bridge traditionally refers to sending aid to a country during an emergency such as an earthquake.

Will they work?

The first question is if people will still want to travel as COVID-19 still exists and no vaccine has been approved.

"It will be difficult in corona times to make people fly," said Schellenberg.

"If someone says France or Germany is safe, people will think 'do I really have to go there? Do I want to book a holiday now and pay a lot of money,'" he added.

Armando Franca/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
Locals in Portugal have already taken advantage of the beaches since restrictions were relaxed.Armando Franca/Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Schellenberg estimated that during the peak holiday season, 90% of holidaymakers will travel by car or choose to stay home instead.

"I don't think we'll see a healthy use of airlines in summer 2020," he said.

The second question is will EU countries agree to air bridges with the UK, which has the most coronavirus cases in Europe.

"The country may have the idea it's not safe to receive passengers from the UK, because if you feel the UK is not safe you better not ask them to fly into your country," said Schellenberg.

But he said with the UK leaving the European Union, member states may feel why would they prioritise Britain.