MIAMI – Probably inspired by New Zealand and Australia, which adopted the Trans-Tasmanian travel bubble, British Airways (BA) and Virgin Atlantic (VS) are asking the UK government to open a transatlantic travel bubble between the UK and US.

According to various media including Business Traveler, Aerotime, and Air Journal, Sean Doyle, BA CEO, and Shai Weiss, VS CEO, followed up, after the statement made last Monday by UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, that air travel may resume on May 17, by saying that the statement is not precise enough on the countries that may be concerned by the opening.

British Airways and VS are asking the government to consider UK and US as part of the “green countries” under the “traffic light system” announced by the PM on Monday’s address on Covid restrictions easing.

Virgin Atlantic B787-9 Dreamliner G-VBZZ – Photo : Tony Bordelais/Airways

Comments from CEOs

Both CEOs claimed that the two airlines had a pre-Covid network of direct flights to the US covering over 30 cities while actual operations are restricted to a “handful of cities with significantly reduced frequencies”. This situation has an enormous cost for the UK economy which is estimated at US$ 44m (UK£32m) per day.

The request made by BA and VS gained support also from London-Heathrow Airport (LHR) CEO, John Holland-Kaye, which stated that “It’s astonishing the UK can sit back and see its vital trading route sit idle for more than a year.” During an interview with Bloomberg TV Shai Weiss commented “We want to highlight the US opportunity. It’s very important to focus on the corridor between the UK and US”.

To comfort their request the airlines indicated that both the UK and US have a strong and successful vaccination program and,based on this assumption, the US CDC (Center for Disease Control) has issued a fresh travel advice indicating that “fully vaccinated people may travel freely at low risk for themselves and others”.

A return to free travel is also supported by the new IATA Director General, Willie Walsh as this would send a strong signal to the rest of the countries.

Featured image: British Airways G-XWBC Airbus A350-1041 – Photo : Ervin Eslami/Airways