UK and US Engaging in Travel Corridor Discussions
This week, there were doubts concerning whether the UK and US could establish a travel corridor in time for holidays abroad recommencing for UK travellers on 17th May. It was recently announced that the US State Department had included 80% of all countries to its ‘do not fly’ list, casting a shadow over UK/US travel plans.
Reports today have revealed UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps is engaging in regular discussions with US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg in attempts to establish a travel corridor before the summer.
The possibility of a UK/US travel corridor has also been made more complicated by 212F, an order imposed by former US President Donald Trump, banning the UK, Schengen area, Brazil and China from travelling to the US from March 2020.
Keith Glatz, Vice President of International Affairs for Airlines for America (A4A), acknowledged the US Government’s broad recognition to repeal the order but that this would need to be done as soon as possible for the travel corridor to be established in time.
The US aviation industry has been significantly impacted by COVID-19, losing USD 46 billion due to dwindling passenger demand, which dropped by as much as 96%. US passenger levels are picking up once again due to the resumption of domestic travel, made possible by rapid coronavirus vaccination rollouts. With 93,000 jobs lost within the aviation industry last year, around 31,000 have been rehired due to growing optimism within the sector.
Mr Glatz contended that US travel restrictions should be eased as the chances of becoming infected on a flight are significantly less than going to the pub. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have stated it would be safe for vaccinated individuals to travel, which has further prompted a plea for the lifting of the 212F order.
“We need to repeal 212F restrictions,” said Mr Glatz. “They no longer make sense at this point in the pandemic. Not just in the UK and the US, but we see these restrictions that made sense at the beginning of the pandemic – but the science no longer supports them.”
With both the UK and the US working tirelessly to make the travel corridor possible, it is hopeful that a meaningful decision will be made in time for the summer and prevent further loss of revenue for the travel and aviation industry.
As UK travel to the US could soon be possible, reports have emerged that vaccine passports could also come into force next month.
Vaccine passports could be available from May
The controversial vaccine passports look to be implemented next month in time for the lifting of UK travel restrictions. A vaccine passport will provide evidence that an individual has been vaccinated or received a recent negative COVID test. The certification will allow for more accessible travel into countries that require travellers to be inoculated and could also be rolled out for other events such as concerts and festivals.
The proposal of vaccine passports has been a controversial topic, with many believing it to be discriminative against those who have not yet received the vaccine. The Equality and Human Rights Commission stated that introducing vaccine certificates is likely to be unlawful, claiming that it will create a ‘two-tier society’.
A UK Government Official stated that vaccine passports were an efficient way for individuals to ‘prove their vaccine status’ to countries that require it.
The news comes as Spain’s Tourism Minister, Fernando Valdes, stated that Spain is desperate to welcome back UK tourists once again.
Spain desperate to welcome UK visitors
Spain is particularly eager to welcome back UK holidaymakers this summer, who make up a significant proportion of Spanish tourism. Mr Valdes praised the UK’s vaccination programme, which has paved the way for the lifting of travel restrictions next month.
Whilst many have criticised vaccine passports, Mr Valdes confirmed that the introduction of travel certificates would significantly help Spanish tourism. Portugal and Greece are also keen to welcome back tourists, with all countries lifting blanket entry bans to countries with solid vaccination rates.
There have, however, been mixed views regarding the recovery of the travel industry this year. Chief Executive Officer for Ryanair, Michael O’Leary, has an optimistic outlook, claiming that summer holidays would experience a sudden recovery this year, with revenue returning to pre-pandemic levels by 2022. He declared that business travel would also see a significant improvement, claiming that many businesses will be eager to hold in-person conferences after a year of virtual meetings.
On the contrary, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has forecast airlines will experience a more significant financial loss in 2021 than initially expected. The IATA now predicts that global air traffic will reach 43% of levels seen during 2019 throughout 2021.
It’s thought that domestic flights within the US and China will drive global recovery within the aviation industry, with airlines losing an additional USD 48 billion in 2021, on top of the USD 126 billion lost in 2020. IATA is blaming uneven vaccination rollouts for limited recovery in the aviation industry within Europe and the North Atlantic.
EU to launch legal proceedings against AstraZeneca
The European Union (EU) has a notoriously slow start to their vaccination campaign, lagging behind the likes of the UK and US. However, reports now indicate that the European Commission will launch legal proceedings against pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca due to shortfalls in supplies to the bloc.
An EU diplomat commented that the legal proceedings aim to ensure AstraZeneca provides the vaccine doses initially set out in their contract with the EU. The deadline to launch proceedings is the end of this week, meaning the European Commission must sign off on the legal action as soon as possible.
It was contracted that AstraZeneca would provide 100 million doses of the vaccine to EU countries; however, by the end of Q1, only 30 million had been delivered. The EU’s vaccination campaign suffered due to the shortages, prompting the decision for the European Commission to take legal action. AstraZeneca has promised to provide 70 million doses to the EU by the end of Q2, only a fraction of the 300 million that the company initially pledged.
The AstraZeneca vaccine has also made headlines over recent months due to speculation that the vaccine causes blood clots. The reports led a number of European countries, including Germany, to suspend the use of the vaccine. However, German states, including Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Bavaria and Saxony, have lifted restrictions and approved the AstraZeneca vaccine for all ages despite Mayor Georg Willi confirming that half of the people refuse to take it.
The AstraZeneca vaccine will not be used for UK citizens under the age of 30, with an alternative being offered due to the link between the vaccine and rare blood clots.