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THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE

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1040 Abroad

UK Airlines call for Transatlantic Airbridge


Published on September 21, 2020

British Airways Fleet British Airways Planes at Heathrow Terminal 5. Photo: Tony Hisgett

A report published today has renewed calls for the relaxation of travel restrictions between the UK and the US. The report, released by Airlines UK, an association of UK airlines including Transatlantic carriers such as British Airways, Norwegian and Virgin Atlantic, argues that the UK economy is losing £32m every day due to the lack of an air bridge between the UK and US.

The report, which was jointly commissioned by Airlines UK, Heathrow Airport, International Airlines Group and Collinsion, says that £3.5bn has been lost from US tourism and business travel, while £121bn in UK exports and £417bn in Foreign Direct Investment are at risk due to the continued restrictions on flights between the US and UK. The report also says that a lack of Transatlantic travel is affecting more than just London, with 80 flights per week "between the US and six regional airports currently on ice".

Airlines UK describe the impact of Covid-19 on Transatlantic routes as "dramatic", saying that as "travel restrictions came into force in late March, seat capacity fell by around 92% compared to April 2019. In September, published seat capacity is around 85% down on 2019 and high capacity summer months have been lost."

John Holland Kaye, CEO of Heathrow Airport, responded to the report by remarking that "This is a stark warning that action is needed immediately to safely open up connections with our key trading partners in the US. We can start with flights to New York, a city where infection rates are now lower than here, and which is the UK’s most valuable route. PCR testing in private labs, both pre-flight and on arrival, would ensure that there is no risk of importing COVID and could pave the way to a Common International Standard for aviation testing."

Alex Cruz, CEO of British Airways, said that "Time is running out", before arguing that "Ministers must reach agreement with their US counterparts on a testing regime that minimises quarantine and permits regional travel corridors to re-open the UK-US market", while the CEO of Virgin Atlantic, Shai Weiss, added that "The closure of the US border since mid-March, coupled with the UK’s 14-day quarantine policy, effectively cuts us off from our most important economic partner."

Speaking on behalf of the Federal of Small Business (FSB), Mike Cherry, the organization's National Chair also discussed the importance of UK-US business, saying "The ties between the UK and US have long been crucial to the economies of both sides of the Atlantic, and now more than ever we’re seeing just how important those bonds are. Small businesses in parts of the country rely heavily on tourists visiting from the US, whether that be in cities like London or Edinburgh or in popular scenic areas right across the country. The past few months have been difficult for all businesses who have lost out on this crucial market."

Cherry went on to say that "for small firms waiting on the delivery of products to sell or as part of supply chains, it’s been an equally difficult time with factories forced to close or restrictions delaying manufacturing lines. The US is the number one target for small businesses looking to export, which is why we need to see these quarantine rules reviewed to help our ailing small firms both in the UK and the US."

To see the full report, go to airlinesuk.org/uk-economy-loses-32m-every-day-as-result-of-no-airbridge-with-the-us/

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