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U.K. International Travel Plan Under Threat

A British Airways Airbus A380 taxis in Los Angeles. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

The coronavirus infection curve has been flattened in the U.K. amid a successful vaccination rollout effort. The aviation industry has expected Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of Britain, would announce the reopening of the international travel on May 17. However, the government hasn’t lifted its travel restrictions. Currently, citizens must have a reasonable excuse before leaving the country, as foreign holidays are not permitted.

Prime Minister Johnson said the government was “hopeful” the international travel could reopen, but he has asked citizens to “be realistic,” adding “[we] don’t want to see the virus being reimported into this country from aboard.” In addition, the government said the Global Travel Taskforce will announce the latest travel arrangement on Apr. 12.

“It is disappointed that the initial update from the Prime Minister continues to suggest significant barriers to international travel may push back to the date of restart beyond May 17,” Karen Dee, Airport Operators Association Chief Executive said.

“We support a framework for restarting international travel but today’s announcement does not provide the clarity we are seeking on the roadmap back towards normality,” Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines UK, said.

It was expected British citizens could be allowed to travel internationally starting on May. 17 based on a “travel light system.” The travel destinations will be ranked as green, amber and red.

Travelers could return to the U.K. without quarantine from the green countries but have to take a COVID test before and after traveling. For the yellow destinations, the travelers would need to quarantine at home for 10 days after returning. Under the program, passengers will be required to take a formal quarantine in a hotel from red zone countries for 10 days.

Earlier, the government unveiled a road map to resume international travel in May. IAG, the parent company of British Airways; Virgin Atlantic; Heathrow Airport; Gatwick Airport and Manchester Airports Group have stressed the urgent need to reopen the international travel without delay.

The parties mentioned the international travel can provide a £26 billion ($35.96 billion) cash injection for the U.K. economy up if restarted on time. However, if the reopening is delayed until September, the country will have a “lost summer” and face £55.7 billion ($77 billion) in lost trade and three billion pounds in lost tourism GDP, putting more than half a million jobs at risk.

“The aviation sector had been hit hard by the pandemic and we cannot afford to leave it behind as the rest of society open up,” Stewart Wingate, Chief Executive of Gatwick Airport, said.

“Resuming transatlantic travel would add £2.4 billion ($3.32 billion) to the national economy this summer alone and help protect over 50,000 jobs,” said John Holland-Kaye, CEO of Heathrow Airport, who especially highlighted the importance of the air link between the U.K. and the United States.

After being hit by the coronavirus pandemic, U.K. aviation has experienced the worst summer season since 1975, with only 14.2 million passengers travel through the airports.

Pete Ainsley


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