Industry Calls For More Aggressive Travel-Corridor Efforts

Singapore A350
Credit: Nigel Howarth / Aviation Week

A broad coalition of manufacturers, trade groups and travel organizations are pushing U.S. and UK leaders to re-open travel links between the two countries, while moves by pharmaceutical manufacturers to boost vaccine distribution are being lauded as much-needed steps to jump-start global air travel demand. 

“As the collective leaders of the U.S. and U.K. aviation, travel and tourism industry, we are writing to underscore the importance of both governments reopening one of the world’s most important aviation markets as soon as safely possible,” the coalition of nearly 50 organizations wrote in a May 3 letter to President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Boris Johnson. “Given the deep economic, social and cultural ties between our two nations, we believe your meeting ahead of the G7 in early June would be an ideal opportunity for a joint announcement of the full reopening of the U.S.-U.K. air travel market for both U.S. and U.K. citizens. We stand ready to support the work of governments in the interim to secure a positive outcome.” 

The coalition argued that quick action would yield measurable returns in short order. 

“If travel restrictions are lifted by this June, we expect the market will start to recover and approach 70 percent of 2019 levels by the end of the year buoyed primarily by summer season traffic,” the coalition said. 

Signatories to the letter included Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA), the American Association of Airport Executives, Airlines For America, Regional Airline Association and multiple unions.  

ACI-NA pointed to the financial damage done to North American airports as one example of how much commercial aviation is suffering. 

“The significant and sustained drop in passengers–still some 90 percent in Canada–has decimated airport finances,” the association said in a statement on the letter. “ACI-NA estimates the pandemic will cost U.S. airports more than $40 billion and Canadian airports more than CAD $5.5 billion in lost revenues by the end of 2021—a number that will only grow if the pandemic and travel restrictions drag on past this year.” 

ACI-NA urged U.S. and Canadian officials to explore re-opening transborder travel, limited since March 2020, to non-essential travel. 

“We have long commended the U.S. and Canadian governments for their leadership in making the difficult but necessary decision to prioritize the protection of the health and safety of citizens of both countries,” ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin Burke said. “Now, it is time to begin thinking about how we will safely and securely re-open the U.S. and Canadian border.” 

The push to support the re-opening of international travel came as the EU works to advance a proposal that would permit vaccinated travelers to take non-essential trips into Europe regardless of case rates in the travelers’ countries.  

Separately, ACI-NA welcomed news that Pfizer is ramping up vaccine distribution and Moderna is teaming up with global vaccine alliance Gavi to get millions of doses to low-income countries. The Moderna deal will provide up to 500 million doses to 92 countries through 2022, the company said. 

“Vaccine distribution will be an important component in rebuilding confidence in air travel following the devastating impact from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Burke said. “The United States has been a proven leader in expediting vaccine distribution for its citizens, and we welcome efforts for other countries to begin doing the same.” 

Sean Broderick

Senior Air Transport & Safety Editor Sean Broderick covers aviation safety, MRO, and the airline business from Aviation Week Network's Washington, D.C. office.