US airlines urge Trump to lift travel ban on passengers from Europe and UK

A group representing major US airlines on Monday urged the Trump administration to lift travel bans on passengers flying in from Brazil, Europe and the UK as the air travel industry continues to strain under the weight of the on-going coronavirus pandemic and as the UK announced a new international travel ban.

The plea came in a letter authored by Airlines for America (A4A), a trade group that represents most US airlines including international giants American, United and Delta, in which they backed a CDC proposal to implement a global testing program requiring negative tests for most international passengers returning to the US.

The letter, addressed to Vice President Mike Pence, called on the Trump administration to ‘move ahead with recommendations to rescind current entry restrictions on travelers from Europe, the United Kingdom and Brazil as soon as possible.’

The group said the entry restrictions should be ‘removed concurrently with the testing program, which will provide yet another layer of safety in the travel journey’.

The emergence of A4A’s letter came on the same day that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new nationwide lockdown in the UK until mid-February, as the nation grapples to control a ‘super’ mutant strain of the virus that’s causing cases to surge.

Airlines of America has urged the Trump administration to lift travel bans on passengers coming to the US in lieu of a negative coronavirus test before take-off (pictured: British tourists returning to UK check in their luggage in Spain)

The airline industry has been decimated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with growth said to have been set back more than two decades in the last nine months

The airline industry has been decimated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, with growth said to have been set back more than two decades in the last nine months

The UK lockdown forbids overseas travel except for only a handful of ‘legally permitted’ reasons, such as work, putting already-planned holidays on ice.  

Meanwhile, the Trump administration in March banned most non-US citizens that have been in Europe from visiting the United States.

Then in November, a Reuters report revealed that the White House was considering rescinding restrictions from the 26 members of the Schengen area that allow travel across open borders, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Brazil.

‘We believe a well-planned program focused on increasing testing of travelers to the United States will further these objectives in a much more effective way than the blanket travel restrictions currently in place,’ the airlines’ letter released Monday said.

A senior administration official said the CDC proposal to expand international testing requirements faces significant opposition from people at senior levels of the administration, including in Pence’s office.

The CDC on December 28 began requiring all airline passengers arriving from Britain – including U.S. citizens – to test negative for COVID-19 within 72 hours of departure.

The move came after a highly contagious new strain of the virus was detected in the UK, though it has since been found in the US. 

Airlines are seeking at least 14 days before new requirements take effect and ‘consideration of inadequate testing and results availability in specific countries rather than a blanket worldwide requirement is also needed,’ the letter said. 

The International Air Transport Association declared the financial impact of COVID-19 to be in the region of $118.5 billion in losses for 2020

The International Air Transport Association declared the financial impact of COVID-19 to be in the region of $118.5 billion in losses for 2020

Airlines for America Full Statement: 

Dear Vice President Pence:

Airlines for America (A4A), on behalf of our member passenger carriers, is writing to express our support for a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) proposal to control the spread of COVID-19, including variants of the virus, by implementing a global program to require testing for travelers to the United States. A4A also urges the Administration to move ahead with recommendations to rescind current entry restrictions on travelers from Europe, the United Kingdom and Brazil as soon as possible. These entry restrictions should be removed concurrently with the testing program, which will provide yet another layer of safety in the travel journey.

We are grateful for the support and relief that you and the Administration have provided to assist the airline industry during the pandemic. From the onset, we have worked with you and your colleagues on the Coronavirus Task Force to protect the health and safety of our passengers, crew members and communities while also continuing to provide the essential economic activities on which our country relies. We believe a well-planned program focused on increasing testing of travelers to the United States will further these objectives in a much more effective way than the blanket travel restrictions currently in place.

Carriers have provided the CDC and other agencies feedback regarding how we can work to stand up an international testing program quickly. We strongly support CDC’s decision to allow both molecular and antigen testing as a way of facilitating the ability of passengers to access testing. Among the items we discussed are an implementation timeline of at least 14 days so that carriers can effectively communicate new requirements to customers and train staff around the world. Consideration of inadequate testing and results availability in specific countries rather than a blanket worldwide requirement is also needed. Given the scope of this requirement, we would appreciate the government’s consideration of making rapid testing available for this effort. Special consideration for unique circumstances such as connecting passengers and U.S. citizens on short round trip journeys need to be factored into the plan as well so as not to discourage travel and the benefits of increased testing. The CDC and other agencies have been open to our feedback and we appreciate the spirit of cooperation in support of the same objectives.

Mr. Vice President, we share optimism that the end of this devastating pandemic is in sight now that safe and effective vaccines are being distributed. We and our employees are extremely proud of the role we are playing in that effort. However, we also know that additional vigorous action is needed in the months ahead to bring the virus under control. We are committed to partnership with the U.S. government in that effort as well, including on an international testing program, and any other ways we can work together to safely and responsibly restore domestic and international air travel.

 

News of the letter’s existence came on the same day that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the UK would be heading back into lockdown for a third time, in a desperate attempt to keep the mutant coronavirus strain at bay.

The measures are due to be in place across the nation until at least mid-February, with schools and universities shuttered, non-essential businesses closed and the public ordered to stay home.

Britain is also currently grappling with a second new strain of the virus said to originate from South Africa. Experts have voiced fears that strain may not be picked up by vaccines and could also pose a more deadly threat.

As a result, British officials have put a halt to all non-essential travel, including international air travel. Within the UK, domestic holidays are also banned.

The UK Government stressed that Britons currently abroad do not need to rush back to the UK.

But ministers are poised to require a negative Covid-19 test for all UK arrivals to curb the spread of the disease.  

UK Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove meanwhile today delivered a stark warning that lockdown will only start to be lifted gradually in March – and that timeline depends on the government meeting its highly ambitious targets for vaccination. 

Airlines for America has not yet responded to a DailyMail.com request for comment as to how the UK’s latest lockdown may affect their White House request.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Monday that the UK variant of the virus has been found in upstate New York.

The governor said the man, who works at a jewelry store in Saratoga Springs, had COVID-19 symptoms but is ‘on the mend.’ 

Three other people linked to the jewelry store have tested positive for COVID-19, but Cuomo said it’s unknown if they have the variant.  

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the UK would be heading back into lockdown for a third time, in a desperate attempt to keep a mutant coronavirus strain at bay

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that the UK would be heading back into lockdown for a third time, in a desperate attempt to keep a mutant coronavirus strain at bay

A report released Monday claimed that the coronavirus pandemic, which began in March, has in just nine months reversed more than two decades worth of airline growth.

According to Cirium, COVID-19 has reduced passenger traffic on global airlines to levels not seen since 1999.

More than 40 airlines completely ceased or suspended operations, and experts expect more to fail in 2021.

From January 1 to December 20, there were 16.8 million passenger flights completed globally — a 49 percent drop from the same time period in 2019 when 33.2 million flights were tracked, according to Cirium data.

There were 13 million scheduled passenger flights flown in 2020 and just 3.8 million international flights as a result international borders shutting down.

In comparison, in 2019, 21.5 million domestic flights were recorded in the same period, marking a 40 percent drop in domestic travel for 2020.

International travel, meanwhile saw a 68 percent drop year-over-year due to the pandemic, with 11.7 million international passenger flights recorded in the same period last year.

Cirium expects passenger demand for air travel to bounce back in 2024 or 2025, with domestic and leisure traffic being the first segments to show ‘sustained recovery.’

COVID-19 has reduced passenger traffic on global airlines to levels not seen since 1999, new data shows (Pictured LAX on December 23)

COVID-19 has reduced passenger traffic on global airlines to levels not seen since 1999, new data shows (Pictured LAX on December 23) 

There were 13 million scheduled passenger flights flown in 2020 and just 3.8 million international flights as a result international borders shutting down - a dcrease of 67 percent Turin Airport, in Italy, pictured above last month)

There were 13 million scheduled passenger flights flown in 2020 and just 3.8 million international flights as a result international borders shutting down – a dcrease of 67 percent Turin Airport, in Italy, pictured above last month)

American has been the hardest-hit airline by the pandemic, reportedly racking up net-debt of $25 billion

American has been the hardest-hit airline by the pandemic, reportedly racking up net-debt of $25 billion

In November, and with no end to the pandemic yet in sight, the International Air Transport Association declared the financial impact of COVID-19 to be in the region of $118.5 billion for 2020.

Calling it, ‘the airline industry’s worst financial year, bar none’, the announcement came as an update to a previous prediction in June that forecasted net losses of $84.3 billion.

For 2021, the IATA also doubled its original net forecast for this year from $15.8 billion to $38.7 billion.

The so-called ‘Big Four’ – Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines – have been pleading for additional bailouts as the pandemic continues to crimp travel.

American, which has lapped up $13.5 billion in taxpayer cash, is in the worst position. The Texas-based carrier has $25 billion of net debt, roughly 6 times its forecast EBITDA for 2022, according to Refinitiv estimates that assume three-quarters of sales return in two years.

UK’s travel guidelines on lockdown:

Travel

You must not leave your home unless you have a reasonable excuse (for example, for work or education purposes). If you need to travel you should stay local – meaning avoiding travelling outside of your village, town or the part of a city where you live – and look to reduce the number of journeys you make overall. The list of reasons you can leave your home and area include, but are not limited to:

  • work, where you cannot reasonably work from home
  • accessing education and for caring responsibilities
  • visiting those in your support bubble – or your childcare bubble for childcare
  • visiting hospital, GP and other medical appointments or visits where you have had an accident or are concerned about your health
  • buying goods or services that you need, but this should be within your local area wherever possible
  • outdoor exercise. This should be done locally wherever possible, but you can travel a short distance within your area to do so if necessary (for example, to access an open space)
  • attending the care and exercise of an animal, or veterinary services

If you need to travel, walk or cycle where possible, and plan ahead and avoid busy times and routes on public transport. This will allow you to practice social distancing while you travel.

Avoid car sharing with anyone from outside your household or your support bubble. See the guidance on car sharing.

If you need to use public transport, you should follow the safer travel guidance.

International travel

You can only travel internationally – or within the UK – where you first have a legally permitted reason to leave home. In addition, you should consider the public health advice in the country you are visiting.

If you do need to travel overseas (and are legally permitted to do so, for example, because it is for work), even if you are returning to a place you’ve visited before, you should look at the rules in place at your destination and the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) travel advice.

UK residents currently abroad do not need to return home immediately. However, you should check with your airline or travel operator on arrangements for returning.

Foreign nationals are subject to the ‘Stay at Home’ regulations. You should not travel abroad unless it is permitted. This means you must not go on holiday.

If you are visiting the UK, you may return home. You should check whether there are any restrictions in place at your destination.

 

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