MIAMI – The United Kingdom in general, British Airways (BA) and Virgin Atlantic (VS) in particular, were expecting a North Atlantic travel bubble to be established but the bubble now seems to be deflating.
Encouraged by the announcement made by UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, on April 5, on possible travel opportunities starting May 17, both BA and VS were pressing for the establishment of a restrictions-free travel corridor over the North Atlantic that would have been a long-awaited bonus for the carriers.
Virgin Atlantic CEO, Shai Weiss, had at the time voiced concerns over the lack of clarity on the countries covered by the announced freedom of travel but he also said that the time span between the Prime Minister announcement and May 17 would leave sufficient time to get organized.
One thing is sure, Weiss never thought that his concerns would apply to the UK. The cold shower came from the announcement, made by the US State Department on April 20, that the UK had become a “level four” destination, meaning that travelers may still travel but under a negative health advisory and under related risks.
The decision was taken notwithstanding talks still going on between the UK Transport Minister, Grant Schnapps, and US officials and the possibility that US President, Joe Biden, may decide to lift the travel ban considering that tangible progress is being made in the vaccination campaign on both sides.
Besides the airlines, the announcement has not sat well for many Americans and Britons, all expecting a chance to escape from confinement and travel freely again. The economic aspect is also affected as the UK side continues to lose US$44m (£32m) per day.
Covid related travel restrictions do not seem to be going away soon. Variants spring up in many countries and better situations are short-lived and followed by a new plunge, the proof is the “level four” advisory being applied by the US State Department to more than 130 countries, many of them being favorite tourism destinations, and the increase of cases in India for the month of April.
Featured image: British Airways B777-300ER G-STBF – Photo: Aaron Davis/Airways