Airline CEOs appeal for travel corridor between UK and US based on low risk of transmission

A plane takes off over a road sign near Heathrow Airport in London.
A plane takes off over a road sign near Heathrow Airport in London.   -  Copyright  AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth
By Euronews

Airlines offering flights between the UK and US are calling for the two countries to open up a travel corridor because their populations are mostly vaccinated.

The airline CEOs argue that "with world-leading vaccination programmes in both the UK and US, there is a clear opportunity to safely open up travel between these two low-risk countries."

In a joint statement, the CEOs of all six airlines offering UK-US flights, as well as Heathrow Airport, say that reopening transatlantic travel "will be essential to igniting economic recovery."

They appealed to the governments of US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who will meet later this week at a G7 summit, to "take a data-driven and risk-based approach to re-opening borders to travel".

What are the travel restrictions for the UK and the US?

The United States is currently on the UK's amber list, along with most European Union countries. Travellers from amber list countries must show a negative COVID-19 test and quarantine for 10 days on their return to the UK.

The US restricts the entry of any non-resident or non-citizen who has been in the UK or EU over the previous 14 days, although some limited exemptions apply.

What is the risk of transmission on a transatlantic flight?

More than three-quarters of British adults have received at least one dose of the vaccine and 63.5% of people aged over 18 in the US are also partially inoculated.

The business leaders cite studies that show vaccination is reducing transmission and curbing the spread of variants.

Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Air Lines, highlighted what he says is "an extraordinarily low risk to travel between the US and the UK, provided travellers are vaccinated or can produce a negative PCR test prior to boarding a flight".

"Our modelling studies conducted with Mayo Clinic put the risk of transmission on a plane travelling between the UK and US at 1 in 1 million," he says.

Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic, says that the UK's "overly cautious approach fails to reap the benefits of the successful vaccination programmes in both the UK and the US" and that the travel restrictions are currently "costing UK economy £23 million (€26.7 million) each day."