Restrictions on transatlantic are travel will cost the UK economy £21,000 per minute, aviation industry leaders have warned.
A study by York Aviation conducted for Heathrow airport, British Airways’ parent company IAG and the industry body Airlines UK concluded the annual cost of government-imposed flight bans and quarantine will be £11bn.
A presidential proclamation has prevented most foreigners from entering the US if they have been in the UK during the previous 14 days. Anyone arriving in Britain from the US must self-isolate for 14 day.
Around one in seven of the usual flights are operating between the UK and US – and 80 weekly transatlantic flights from six regional airports are currently grounded.
John Holland-Kaye, chief executive of Heathrow, said: “This is a stark warning that action is needed immediately to safely open up connections with our key trading partners in the US.
“We can start with flights to New York, a city where infection rates are now lower than here, and which is the UK’s most valuable route.
“PCR testing in private labs, both pre-flight and on arrival, would ensure that there is no risk of importing Covid.”
Heathrow has a dedicated Covid-19 testing centre ready for use, but it is awaiting government approval to start work.
Alex Cruz, chief executive of British Airways, said: “Government inaction on aviation and its impact on Britain’s economy couldn’t be clearer. Time is running out.
“Ministers must reach agreement with their US counterparts on a testing regime that minimises quarantine and permits regional travel corridors to re-open the UK-US market.”
His counterpart at Virgin Atlantic, Shai Weiss, said: “The closure of the US border since mid-March, coupled with the UK’s 14-day quarantine policy, effectively cuts us off from our most important economic partner.
“More than 30 countries have already stolen a march and introduced passenger testing. If we don’t act now Britain will be left even further behind, putting many more thousands of jobs at risk across the country.”
Tim Alderslade, chief executive of Airlines UK, said: “Millions of Americans come to the UK to visit and spend money in our shops, restaurants and tourist attractions. It’s critical we reopen this link, starting with the all-important London-New York route, so our economy and aviation sector can start the long road to recovery.
“We urge governments on both sides of the Atlantic to redouble their efforts to launch a testing regime as quickly as possible.
“In the absence of a vaccine, testing for arriving passengers – alongside regional travel corridors – remains the only way to resume international travel.”
The government says it has an provided an unprecedented package of economic support for the aviation industry.
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