Airline chiefs urge Covid-19 testing on transatlantic flights

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U.S. and European airlines wrote to the White House and the EU on Tuesday, calling for coordinated coronavirus testing to restore transatlantic flights.

Executives from United Airlines, Lufthansa Group, American Airlines and IAG, which owns British Airways, called on US Vice President Mike Pence and EU Home Affairs Commissioner Ylva Johansson to act as the industry struggles to recover from the effects of the pandemic. .

Airlines have said they want US and European governments to adopt a coordinated Covid-19 testing program for transatlantic flights, in order to “enhance safety and build confidence in critical transatlantic passenger air services.” .

“In addition to all of the important and unprecedented steps governments and airlines are taking to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus, a coordinated Covid-19 testing program could be essential in building the confidence to enable services to resume without quarantine conditions. or other entry restrictions, ”the letter reads.

The intervention comes as airlines tentatively resume flying after entire fleets were grounded during the lockdown.

IAG chief executive Willie Walsh, who co-signed the letter, said British Airways “were fighting for survival” and passenger numbers would take several years to fully recover.

Several airlines and airports have already tested test regimes or advocated the approach as a way to reopen routes between regions such as the United States, where infection rates remain stubbornly high.

Heathrow is testing swab tests for passengers with airport service companies Swissport and Collinson, and chief executive John Holland-Kaye has called on the UK government to take the lead in developing an international testing standard.

In June, Lufthansa offered passengers in Frankfurt Covid-19 tests that could be linked to a ticket so that passengers could bypass quarantine.

Airlines UK, which represents the industry, said it supports proposals for a testing regime.

“The tests need to be safe, fast, accurate and cost effective, but we need to start looking at how they could be used to open up countries like the US, which is such a vital market for the UK,” he said. -he declares.

“We urge the government to consider a coordinated pilot passenger testing program, so that the industry can seek to restart operations between the EU and the US.”

Tuesday’s letter did not include details on how a testing diet might work.

He noted that introducing measures would pose “challenges”, but said the US and European guidelines on passenger safety had “a lot in common” and could “provide a solid basis on which to resume transatlantic travel in all safety ”.

The letter comes the same week that United and American are due to release their second quarter results.

Delta Air Lines reported a pre-tax loss of $ 7 billion last week, and more losses are expected from United and the US. They have warned employees that the payroll will be cut by tens of thousands in the fall, when terms of employment tied to federal aid expire.

Additional reporting by Claire Bushey in Chicago

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