Johan Lundgren, head of EasyJet, said most of Europe should be cleared for take-off as part of the government’s planned relaxation of air travel restrictions. His call not to delay the resumption of mass traffic was echoed by Virgin Atlantic chief Shai Weiss. He said there is now no reason for the government not to allow US services to be returned next month.
Following the UK roadmap for lockdown, a list of allowable destinations is expected to be released soon. Mr Lundgren told the BBC the “clock is ticking” and airlines need clarity.
Mr Lundgren revealed a study commissioned by epidemiologists at Yale University’s School of Public Health, which found that unrestricted travel to some of the most popular vacation destinations would increase hospital admissions by 4%.
He said the research suggested that much of Europe, including Spain, Portugal and Greece, should be rated ‘green’ under a government-proposed traffic light system to show which countries can be visited.
“On this basis, EasyJet believes that much of Europe should be classified as green under the government. “This is because vaccination is critical. The success of vaccine rollout in the UK has broken the link between cases and hospital stays. By May and June, we expect the situation to improve steadily because of vaccination rates.”
Also on Friday, Mr Weiss demanded that the USA be placed on the green list. “With world-leading vaccination programs in the UK and US and evidence of safe reopening through testing, there is a clear opportunity to open travel and no reason to delay beyond May 17th,” said Virgin Atlantic chief executive officer.
On that day, the government says air travel restrictions could be relaxed, despite ministers saying there is no guarantee that this schedule will be met. Like much of the aviation sector, both airlines shed thousands of jobs and suffered a huge slump in profits when global aviation was launched. Mr Weiss was speaking out in the US when he revealed the airline suffered a loss of £ 659m in 2020, with passenger numbers falling by 80%.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps will chair a meeting of G7 Transport Ministers next week to discuss vaccination records before it is revealed which countries will be open to the British.
Earlier this week, British Airways CEO Sean Doyle said he was confident about the aviation industry’s recovery, citing comments from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen that vaccinated U.S. tourists would be welcome to Europe this summer. “Opening an air corridor can easily be achieved if we have the will on both sides of the pond,” he said in an interview with Aviation Straight Talk.