Following a year of unprecedented turmoil not just in the travel industry but also around the world, it has been hoped that ‘air bridges’ between specific countries or cities that have low cases of coronavirus could be created in an attempt to kick start international travel.
Chief customer and operating officer of Virgin Atlantic, Corneel Koster, has discussed his thoughts on the continuing travel problems and has suggested that New York should have international flights operating even if the rest of the country’s air travel is still on pause.
While confirmed cases of coronavirus across the country are still high, New York has managed to reduce their levels to a low amount – and continued to keep them there. The UK however has seen levels of positive cases increase over the last two weeks and has been forced to put several different areas into ‘localized lockdowns’.
Koster has put forward his thoughts to the British government and is pushing for them to discuss the option. This move comes after the airline’s CEO Shai Weis had already put forward a notion for airport testing to be in force rather than the mandatory 14-day quarantine that is currently in the country.
Describing the way the airline has had to adapt over the last 9 months as a “fight for survival” Weis confirmed the company did not believe they could start rebuilding their business until there was an “introduction of passenger testing” and that the “opening of US borders and removal of quarantine is imperative to recovery.”
In a statement the company confirmed that they were ‘calling for both UK and US governments to introduce robust passenger testing regimes to lift travel restrictions whilst protecting public health.”
Meanwhile Koster confirmed that the airline believed “a travel corridor between New York and the UK is feasible. We think there is an ear listening and we hope that ear will get to action soon because we can’t really waste months on this.”
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has been advising against ‘all but essential travel’ from the UK to America since coronavirus started to take over the two countries back in early March 2020 and any British travelers returning from America are required to quarantine for 14-days.
Likewise America has maintained its restrictions on British citizens crossing American shores with the FCDO stating that, “since 16 March, it is not possible for many British nationals to enter the USA if they have been in the UK, Ireland, Schengen zone, Iran, Brazil, or China within the previous 14 days.”
The on-going flight bans has had a devastating effect on airlines around the world, with many forced into bankruptcy, closures or having to ask for grants or costly loans. Virgin Atlantic has been just one of several airlines to speak up for the industry and concerns are high that the aviation industry may never recover.
“If you look at somewhere like New York [that] has lower COVID rations, it’s something we’re lobbying both countries’ government’s on because it will be a while before travel can be completely unrestricted and free and in the meantime we strongly believe there is a need to get travel going.”
Koster continued that ‘getting a travel corridor between New York and the UK would be very important to Virgin Atlantic but also other transatlantic players.”
At the time of writing Covid-19 is continuing to increase in certain areas of the world with 30,382929 cases and 951,169 deaths globally. Currently America has 6,876,102 confirmed cases – with an average increase of between 40-45 thousand daily cases – and 202,236 fatalities. In New York there has been 480,899 confirmed cases, with just under 1000 new daily cases.
In contrast the UK has seen their daily cases increase from 353 at the beginning of July to 3395 daily cases. Much of this blame has been laid at the feet of those working in the hospitality industry after a “Eat Out To Help Out” scheme – where diners received 50% off their meals during August in an attempt to get more people out and spending money to boost the economy – saw more than 64 million people take advantage of the scheme. While face coverings are mandatory in public spaces and shops in the UK they are not required to be worn in restaurants or bars. The hospitality industry refutes this claim and states that the government has not done enough to ensure that adequate procedures have been implemented throughout the pandemic.
Several airlines in both America and the UK have already gone bust including British ‘cheap thrills’ airline Flybe and Avianca in the US.
As well as airlines the travel industry has seen travel agents and tour operators suffer with student travel company STA Travel becoming the latest casualty of a war against a virus that appears to be relentless in who and what it savages.