London to New York 'air corridor' considered to save airlines

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London to New York 'air corridor' considered to save airlines

An air bridge could be set up between London and New York to allow Britons to avoid quarantine - but the rest of the US will remain 'red listed' du

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An air bridge could be set up between London and New York to allow Britons to avoid quarantine – but the rest of the US will remain ‘red listed’ due to the high number of Covid-19 cases.

Anyone arriving in Britain from the US has to quarantine for two weeks, under rules to prevent the spread of coronavirus. 

The reopening of the route would help rescue airlines that rely on trans-Atlantic travel.

Proposals are at very early stages. But if they get the go-ahead, New York could become the UK’s first ‘regional travel corridor’ destination.

This would open the floodgates to winter holidays in America and help thousands of British businesses that rely on US visitors.

A source told The Telegraph: ‘There are discussions going on at a very senior level around opening up London and New York. They are at a very early stage but it is vital to get business going with a major trading partner especially as we near Brexit.’ 

Today the boss of the trade body Airlines UK, Tim Alderslade, warns 'there is no future for international aviation without a comprehensive testing programme' (pictured, London)

Today the boss of the trade body Airlines UK, Tim Alderslade, warns 'there is no future for international aviation without a comprehensive testing programme' (pictured, London)

Today the boss of the trade body Airlines UK, Tim Alderslade, warns ‘there is no future for international aviation without a comprehensive testing programme’ (pictured, London)

In New York (pictured), the cumulative number of cases over seven days, a key statistic closely-watched by Downing Street, is at 7.2 per 100,000 residents, lower than the UK on 11.3 and much lower than the Government’s quarantine threshold of 20

This would open the floodgates to winter holidays in America and help thousands of British businesses that rely on US visitors (file photo)

This would open the floodgates to winter holidays in America and help thousands of British businesses that rely on US visitors (file photo)

This would open the floodgates to winter holidays in America and help thousands of British businesses that rely on US visitors (file photo)

1 in 4 jobs are culled at Gatwick

Gatwick cut 600 jobs yesterday – one in four of its workforce – as part of a major reshaping of the airport’s business.

It is only operating about a fifth of last year’s flights and over 75 per cent of its staff are on the Government’s furlough scheme.

Elsewhere, Rolls-Royce announced it would close its site in Annesley, Nottinghamshire, weeks after announcing 9,000 aerospace job cuts. Restaurant chain Wahaca is to close ten restaurants and BMW announced the loss of 400 jobs at its Mini car factory in Oxford.

Official figures suggest that 730,000 people lost their jobs between March and July.

Experts warn this is the tip of the iceberg as many jobs are being propped up by the furlough scheme, which ends in October.

Economists have warned the number of people out of work could rise to nearly four million by the end of the year.

Today the boss of the trade body Airlines UK, Tim Alderslade, warns ‘there is no future for international aviation without a comprehensive testing programme’.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has repeatedly played down the idea of airport testing, claiming swab tests would fail to spot almost 90 per cent of asymptomatic cases.

But in a growing revolt, more than 80 MPs, including 40 Tories, have warned that failure to endorse airport testing will have a disastrous impact on the travel industry and wider economy.

Senior aviation bosses, including Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye, say quarantine measures have hung the ‘Closed’ sign on Britain and are costing the economy £60million a day in lost foreign visitor spending.

As well as airport testing, industry leaders are also eager for ministers to establish ‘regional travel corridors’ to low-risk destinations.

In New York, the cumulative number of cases over seven days, a key statistic closely-watched by Downing Street, is at 7.2 per 100,000 residents, lower than the UK on 11.3 and much lower than the Government’s quarantine threshold of 20.

Paul Charles, of travel consultancy The PC Agency, said: ‘My clear understanding is that there are initial talks taking place between the Department for Transport and the US Department of Transportation to create corridors between Heathrow and New York, which is the world’s most popular air route.

‘However, I understand that US authorities want to see firm testing taking place at Heathrow.

The reopening of the route would help rescue airlines that rely on trans-Atlantic travel (pictured, Heathrow Terminal 5)

The reopening of the route would help rescue airlines that rely on trans-Atlantic travel (pictured, Heathrow Terminal 5)

The reopening of the route would help rescue airlines that rely on trans-Atlantic travel (pictured, Heathrow Terminal 5)

Proposals are at very early stages. But if they get the go-ahead, New York (pictured, JFK Airport) could become the UK's first 'regional travel corridor' destination

Proposals are at very early stages. But if they get the go-ahead, New York (pictured, JFK Airport) could become the UK's first 'regional travel corridor' destination

Proposals are at very early stages. But if they get the go-ahead, New York (pictured, JFK Airport) could become the UK’s first ‘regional travel corridor’ destination

‘It would send a strong signal if this vital route was to open again, and would build confidence for long-haul travel. It is one of the best things this Government could do for the airline industry.’ 

Virgin Atlantic resumed flights from Britain to New York in July, as well as Los Angeles – running three round trips a week.

An airport industry source told The Telegraph: ‘New York is the financial centre of the most powerful economic force in the world so we need to be able to fly there.’ 

Earlier this month Heathrow’s boss called for quarantine measures to be scrapped and for passengers to be tested on arrival. 

Just 867,000 people travelling through the west London airport last month, compared with 7.7million in July 2019.

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said: ‘Tens of thousands of jobs are being lost because Britain remains cut off from critical markets such as the US, Canada and Singapore.

‘The Government can save jobs by introducing testing to cut quarantine from higher-risk countries, while keeping the public safe from a second wave of Covid.’

It comes amid growing certainty that Switzerland will become the latest country to face quarantine restrictions tonight.

The country’s cumulative number of cases over seven days hit 21.2 per 100,000 people yesterday. Jamaica and the Czech Republic are also at risk.

In full: The countries which are not on the UK’s quarantine list

The Government has imposed quarantine restrictions on numerous countries in recent weeks. 

Below is the latest list of nations which are still viewed by the UK as safe to travel:   

Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Barbados, Bermuda, Bonaire, St Eustatius and Saba, British Virgin Islands, Brunei, Cayman Islands, the ChannelIslands, Curaçao, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Estonia, Falkland Islands, Faroe Islands, Fiji, Finland, French Polynesia, Gibraltar, Germany, Greece, Greenland, Grenada, Guadeloupe, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Macao, Malaysia, Mauritius, Montserrat, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Norway, Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie and Oeno Islands, Poland, Portugal, San Marino, Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Korea, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, St Barthélemy, St Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Pierre and Miquelon, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Switzerland, Taiwan, Turkey, Vatican City State, Vietnam.

Britain can soar once more if ministers back tests at airports, writes Airlines UK boss TIM ALDERSLADE

Pictured: Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines UK

Pictured: Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines UK

Pictured: Tim Alderslade, CEO of Airlines UK

To save Britain’s aviation industry and wider economy from the fallout of Covid-19 and its aftershocks, it is imperative that Boris Johnson follows the logic understood by our European neighbours and introduces testing for incoming passengers at British airports as a priority.

The stark truth is that there can be no future for international aviation without a comprehensive testing programme for travellers from countries deemed to pose a higher risk of Covid.

I sense that the Prime Minister and some of his ministers understand this perfectly well. The challenge is how to overcome the instinctive Whitehall inertia that now seems to prevail.

‘Air corridors’ to low-risk countries brought some temporary relief to the industry over the summer holiday peak – at least until the shutters were abruptly pulled down to hit travel from countries such as Spain and France.

But as we move out of the holiday season, the key to the industry’s survival – and to Britain’s economic recovery – is global travel, particularly from the United States and Canada, South and Central America, and much of Asia.

The current regime of forcing those arriving at British airports from ‘red countries’ – those with relatively high levels of infections – to quarantine for two weeks effectively wrecks all such travel, be it for leisure or business purposes.

As an initial step, our economy cannot hope to recover until we reconnect with our most important trading partner, the US.

About one-fifth of our exports by value head across the Atlantic, much of it transported in passenger aircraft alongside the luggage.

The US is also the top inbound tourism market for the UK, with Americans making up 11 per cent of visitors, spending lavishly as they enjoy our castles, restaurants, golf courses, pubs and theatres.

London’s West End cannot hope to thrive again until the Americans return.

The stark truth is that there can be no future for international aviation without a comprehensive testing programme for travellers (pictured at Heathrow) from countries deemed to pose a higher risk of Covid

The stark truth is that there can be no future for international aviation without a comprehensive testing programme for travellers (pictured at Heathrow) from countries deemed to pose a higher risk of Covid

The stark truth is that there can be no future for international aviation without a comprehensive testing programme for travellers (pictured at Heathrow) from countries deemed to pose a higher risk of Covid

And if we continue as we are, tens of thousands of those workers in the service and entertainment industries who have been furloughed will find themselves permanently unemployed.

Yet passenger flights between the UK and US remain almost completely grounded.

Surely our Prime Minister, US-born and instinctively pro-American to his core, must understand the absurdity of this state of affairs? The most frustrating part of this is that we now have a key part of the solution to hand – fast and reliable testing, at scale.

Heathrow, our global hub, has the infrastructure ready to go, in partnership with two private operators, Swissport and Collinson. But it needs a decision from the Government that testing is an acceptable alternative to mandatory quarantine.

Many countries are already well ahead. Some test once on arrival, others require a negative pre-departure test.

I sense that the Prime Minister and some of his ministers understand this perfectly well. The challenge is how to overcome the instinctive Whitehall inertia that now seems to prevail (pictured, Heathrow)

I sense that the Prime Minister and some of his ministers understand this perfectly well. The challenge is how to overcome the instinctive Whitehall inertia that now seems to prevail (pictured, Heathrow)

I sense that the Prime Minister and some of his ministers understand this perfectly well. The challenge is how to overcome the instinctive Whitehall inertia that now seems to prevail (pictured, Heathrow)

Early this month, Germany introduced a free, mandatory single PCR test – the most accurate available – for arrivals from higher-risk countries into all its major airports.

Travellers must isolate until a result is obtained, usually within 24 hours. A negative result frees the traveller from the need to quarantine for 14 days.

The German approach applied here would really be a game-changer, and surely that must be our ultimate aim.

Ministers have raised concerns that such a single test might fail to capture sufficient numbers of infected individuals who are at an early stage of infection

This is a valid concern, but data from live testing programmes support the case that a single test is effective in significantly reducing risk. Certainly, it has proved good enough for German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is not known for being reckless.

Every step we take away from lockdown comes with some risk. Reopening schools, for example, is not without risk, but keeping children at home is rightly deemed more damaging.

The same is true of reopening up to North America and beyond. It is the cornerstone of our post-Brexit future as a truly global and connected Britain.

Yet this is now at serious risk and cannot be realised if we remain shut to international travel while our competitors are putting effective solutions into practice.

The alternative is to continue bleeding jobs and connectivity, putting visitors under two-week house arrest and watching our competitors recover as we languish in an isolation of our own making.

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