US-European air testing scheme urged

Major airlines on both sides of the Atlantic have asked for a joint coronavirus testing programme, so that travel may resume between the US and Europe, news wires reported. The owner of British Airways and United Airlines are among the carriers that have signed a letter to US and European Union leaders. Currently travel between Europe and the US is as a whole barred.

In a letter sent on Tuesday to US and European governments, major airline chief executives called for a US-EU testing programme for passengers making trans-Atlantic trips. Signees of the letter include bosses of International Airlines Group (IAG) - which owns British Airways - American Airlines, United Airlines and Lufthansa.

“Given the unquestioned importance of trans-Atlantic air travel to the global economy as well as to the economic recovery of our businesses, we believe it is critical to find a way to re-open air services between the US and Europe,” the letter sent to US Vice President Mike Pence and EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson said.

 “We recognise that testing presents a number of challenges, however we believe that a pilot testing programme for the transatlantic market could be an excellent opportunity for government and industry to work together,” the letter added.

The EU doesn’t currently allow visits from US residents, although it has relaxed rules for non-essential travel from 15 countries with lower coronavirus infection rates. The UK requires people arriving from the US to spend 14 days in self-imposed quarantine, while the US restricts travel by most passengers coming for Europe.

Pilar Wolfsteller, Americas Air Transport Editor at FlightGlobal told the BBC that such measures are a crucial step towards restarting flights between America and Europe: "Until the US and EU open their borders to foreign visitors again, it will be very difficult to impossible for airlines to climb out of the crisis. For the major US carriers like United, American and Delta, European visitors are vital to their success and any progress towards re-opening transatlantic travel would be a great step forward towards normalcy for the airlines," she added.

​China has also come out in favour of testing kits and wants passengers of inbound flights to provide negative Covid-19 test results before boarding. The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) made the announcement on Tuesday as the government looks to further reduce the risk of imported coronavirus cases.

Carriers are struggling to survive as the coronavirus pandemic has severely disrupted global travel. Overall, the airline industry is facing a huge challenge amid a severe downturn in passengers. Most major airlines have announced job cuts and staff furloughs, while some smaller players have collapsed.

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