Airline chiefs urge Boris Johnson to give international travel go ahead

Suban Abdulla
·4 min read
A British Airways Boeing 777 lands at London Heathrow Airport on 28th October 2020  (Photo by Robert Smith/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
The majority of foreign travel in and out of the UK is currently banned. The Global Travel Taskforce is due to report on potential new rules on 12 April. Photo: Robert Smith/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The heads of leading airlines in Britain's travel sector have called on prime minister Boris Johnson to give the green light to foreign travel in the coming weeks. 

Several chief executives, including of British Airways (BA), easyJet (EZJ.L), (JET2.L), Loganair, Ryanair (RYA.L), Tui (TUI.L) and Virgin Atlantic as well as trade body Airlines UK wrote to the PM as the earliest date when foreign travel can resume is on 17 May. 

A letter seen by the PA Media news agency and the Sun states "there can be no economic recovery without aviation" and that the airlines have the necessary "tools" to allow for safe return to travel in May.

"We believe vaccinated passengers should not be subject to travel restrictions and that testing can also reduce the barriers to travel including for areas that are considered to present some risk. Only very high-risk areas would be subject to more stringent measures," the bosses added. 

In February, the same group of airline bosses called on the government to outline a recovery road map for the sector so they could plan for the summer.

They also called for additional economic support for UK aviation industry to stimulate and strengthen any recovery.

Tim Alderslade, the chief executive of Airlines UK, which represents the commercial aviation industry, said that "tens of thousands of jobs" rely on aviation and travel restarting and that the sector "cannot survive another lost summer" with "little or no revenue."

"We can do this proportionately and in a risk-based way – it’s not a question of opening up the border to every country out there. If there are concerns about variants restrictions will remain but where it is safe to do so we need to start the process of opening up. We cannot with a straight face talk about Global Britain without aviation,” he added. 

READ MORE: UK adds more countries to travel ban list amid COVID variant fears

The news comes a day ahead of when Johnson is expected to announce new lockdown easing as part of his four stage roadmap to reopen the country and economy. 

He is poised to unveil on Monday that foreign travel will be allowed to reopen under a traffic light system once the COVID restrictions ease. 

The traffic light system will rank countries green, amber or red according to risk level, which are based on vaccination progress, COVID-19 cases and variants.

"Green" listed countries would mean all limits are eliminated, while "amber" would mean a customised three-day quarantine and testing regime.

Yellow countries will be open, however there may be some need for coronavirus testing, while an amber alert would allow for travel but there could be testing and quarantine requirements, the Telegraph reported. 

Travellers from countries on the red list could be either barred from entering the UK, or people arriving back from such destinations will have to pay to stay at quarantine hotels for up to 10 days. This is the current set-up for the worst affected nations across the world. 

The majority of foreign travel in and out of the UK is currently banned. The Global Travel Taskforce is due to report on potential new rules on 12 April. Any changes are expected to come into effect in accordance with the unlocking roadmap from 17 May.

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The aviation industry has been hit hard by the pandemic amid grounded flights and global lockdowns.

Many airlines were forced to make difficult decisions in order to save their businesses including cutting jobs to save cash, while trying to navigate the ever-changing landscape of government measures.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) said the industry reported an estimated net loss of $118.5bn (£85.7bn) in 2020, a deeper recision of its $84.3bn forecast in June last year.

A net loss of $38.7bn is also expected in 2021, more than double the projected $15.8bn loss six months ago.

READ MORE: UK to trial COVID passports in April

Earlier in March, BA announced it will introduce digital global vaccine passports in time for the planned reopening of international travel from 17 May.

BA, owned by International Consolidated Airlines Group (IAG.L), will ask people who received their two doses of the COVID-19 vaccine to log their details with their BA app, to prove that they are safe to fly.

Additionally, BA's boss has also called for unrestricted travel for those who have been vaccinated and for non-vaccinated people with a negative coronavirus test as the industry gears up for overseas travel to recommence.