Ripples of a UK-US travel corridor first emerged in November 2020, when industry personnel and political officials believed it to be economically fruitful for the two nations to devise an exclusive bilateral passage in a time where contact, travel and connection had been severed from public life.
However, on Thursday 5th November 2020, Boris Johnson plunged Britain back into a national lockdown and the prospect of an alternative yet equally special relationship between the UK and the US diminished.
In May 2021, airlines, airports and industry personnel rejuvenated their campaign to implement what is being referred to as a “Transatlantic Travel Corridor”.
The coalition of British and American aviation personnel desperate for their two nations to revitalise their once lucrative travel route after months of disruption culminated in a letter that was publicised on Monday 3rd May 2021. Aviation organisations including the chief executives of British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Airlines for America, Airline Pilots Association, Gatwick Airport and Heathrow Airport signed the open letter addressed to Boris Johnson and Joe Biden’s governments warning them that a failure to ease travel restrictions would result in another global economic downturn. The letter lobbies both nations to resume travel to and from each other “as soon as safely possible”, and continues that “the successful vaccination efforts in both countries so far have created “a significant opportunity for the UK and the US … to re-open this crucial air corridor safely”.
Furthermore, the letter states that “safely reopening borders between the US and UK is essential for both countries’ economic recovery from Covid-19″, and that “given the deep economic, social and cultural ties between our two nations, we believe your meeting ahead of the G7 in early June would be an ideal opportunity for a joint announcement of the full reopening of the US-UK air travel market for both US and UK citizens.” The G7 group of industrialised nations will hold its prospective annual summit on Friday 11th June 2021 in the UK.
At present, British citizens are banned from entering the United States and those travelling to the UK must quarantine in a chosen location for ten days upon arrival. Last month, Secretary of State for Transport Grant Shapps stated the two countries were discussing dropping restrictions. Under the proposed system passengers would sit a pre-travel COVID-19 test without the need to quarantine upon arrival in either country. So what is the “Transatlantic Travel Corridor” and why is it so popular right now?
Before the COVID-19 Pandemic, transatlantic travel between the UK and the US had been the world’s most profitable airspace. In fact, according to calculations published by the Financial Times in 2019, 22 million passengers travelled between the United Kingdom and the United States that year, thus accumulating to a total of 10% of 2019’s global air travel. Furthermore, transatlantic travel routes are estimated to be worth approximately ¢9billion to both British and American carriers. Therefore, one can assume why aviation and tourism executives are eager to restore the transatlantic travel route to its former glory.
Interestingly, the success of Britain and America’s vaccination programmes offer aviation bosses a tangible opportunity to revive their businesses – without raising the R-value and growth rate of COVID-19. Even Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss has voiced his optimism regarding the prospect of the route being established due to increased vaccinations.
Both the United States and the United Kingdom have been amongst the fasted nation states to roll out their vaccination programmes. According to the Financial Times’ vaccine tracker, 51.8% of the total population of the UK have been vaccinated whilst 44.9% of the total population of the US have been vaccinated as of the 2nd May 2021. Therefore, we can conclude that if the “transatlantic travel corridor” were to be established safely and mindful of the risk of COVID-19, that the result would be a huge boost to Britain’s economy in particular its tourism and aviation sectors.
In accordance with their fervent desire to redeem normality within the aviation industry, aviation bosses have also raised their concerns that expensive testing requirements could hinder the demand for summer travel. In order to smooth this potential bump in aviation’s road to normality, EasyJet CEO Johan Lundgren has stated that cheaper lateral flow tests should be popularised instead of PCR tests. It is hoped that cheaper and easier-to-use COVID-19 tests will be less daunting to potential holidaymakers, and as a result lure in a greater number of customers during the summertime. However, the Prime Minister has stated that it is still too early for Brits to book a foreign holiday, and that non-essential international travel is still banned until 17th May at the earliest.
Melissa Fleur Afshar
Content and Media Manager at British School of Aviation