A number of the world’s largest airlines have come together to call for a joint coronavirus testing programme between the EU and US to get transatlantic air travel going again.
In a letter to US vice president Mike Pence and EU commissioner for home affairs Ylva Johansson, airline executives asked for “the safe and swift restoration of air travel between the United States and Europe”.
The letter was signed by British Airways owner IAG chief executive Willie Walsh, as well as the chiefs of Lufthansa, American Airlines and United Airlines.
Currently, sweeping travel restrictions are in place which mean most EU citizens are banned from travelling to the US, and vice versa.
“Given the unquestioned importance of trans-Atlantic air travel to the global economy as well as to the economic recovery of our businesses, we believe it is critical to find a way to re-open air services between the US and Europe”, the letter said.
“We recognize that testing presents a number of challenges, however we believe that a pilot testing programme for the transatlantic market could be an excellent opportunity for government and industry to work together”.
The transatlantic market is of extreme importance to large carriers such as BA, but experts have warned that it is likely to be one of the last routes to return.
In the last few weeks airlines have started operating flights again and are slowly ramping up services as coronavirus lockdown restrictions ease.
The industry has been among the worst hit by the crisis, as broad travel bans, lockdown restrictions and spooked passengers sent passenger numbers flatlining through the spring.
All of the letter’s signees have been forced into job cuts due to the crisis, with BA the only one not to seek bespoke aid from its home government.
The calls for a common testing system echo those made by the UK’s largest airport Heathrow, which has repeatedly demanded that the government take a lead in developing a common international standard for safe travel.