US-UK airlines call for travel corridor over high vaccination rates

Airlines offering passenger services between the UK and US are calling for the two countries to open up a travel corridor, citing the fast COVID-19 vaccination campaigns.

In a joint statement, the CEOs of all six airlines offering UK-US passenger services as well as Heathrow Airport argued reopening transatlantic travel “will be essential to igniting economic recovery.”

The United States is currently on the UK”s amber list alongside most European Union member states. Travellers from amber list countries must present a negative COVID-19 test prior to travel and quarantine for 10 days upon arrival during which time they must also submit to two additional tests.

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

The CEOs argued 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”.

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

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

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

Shai Weiss, CEO of Virgin Atlantic said 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.”

Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Air Lines, highlighted what he said is ” an extraordinarily low risk to travel between the US 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 added.

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