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Airlines push to reopen key transatlantic travel routes 


IAG chief executive Luis Gallego has called for vaccinated people to be allowed to travel

IAG chief executive Luis Gallego has called for vaccinated people to be allowed to travel

IAG chief executive Luis Gallego has called for vaccinated people to be allowed to travel

Airlines hit hard by Covid-19 sought swifter action to loosen restrictions on travel following pledges from the US and the UK to reopen lucrative transatlantic links.

Carriers welcomed an agreement by US President Joe Biden and UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson to create a joint task force to explore options for resuming travel, but are pushing for their administrations to go further than the tentative gesture.

Vaccinated people ought to be able to travel, Luis Gallego, chief executive officer of British Airways parent IAG SA, said in a Bloomberg TV interview.

Given progress with rolling out inoculations in both countries, “we don’t see why they have to have restrictions between the US and the UK”.

The North Atlantic corridor joining the US with Europe is the single most profitable corner of the global aviation market, filled with premium travellers paying extra for first-class and business-class seats.

The connection pumps billions of dollars into the British and American economies and supports hundreds of thousands of jobs, according to Drew Crawley, chief commercial officer of American Express Global Business Travel. “The continued closure of these vital routes for more than 400 days has been detrimental to economic recovery in both countries,” Mr Crawley said.

Throughout the pandemic, carriers on both sides of the Atlantic have lobbied forcefully for a relaxation of travel curbs, a call they renewed this week ahead of the G7 summit meeting in Cornwall.

Along with their British counterparts, the participants included Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, American Airlines and discounter JetBlue Airways, which intends to start services to London later this year.

Setbacks with the virus have repeatedly frustrated efforts to reignite the market.

Most recently, the Delta variant first identified in India has quickly driven up infection rates in the UK.

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That’s forced the government into retreat on travel at the start of the usually busy summer season, when airlines were hoping for an acceleration.

“We’re encouraged by this show of mutual will for reopening the trans-Atlantic corridor,” said Stacy Day, a spokeswoman for American Airlines said of the US-UK task force. “We’ll continue to be willing and eager partners to the US and UK governments as their conversations progress.”

In parallel with the talks with the UK, the US is also studying how to reopen travel links with counterparts in the European Union.

Countries including Italy, Greece and France are slowly lifting barriers to entry by Americans as part of an overall push to ease movement to and within the bloc. But the opening hasn’t been reciprocated by the US.

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