Will U.S. And European Airlines Miss Another Atlantic Summer?
This is an abbreviated version of the AWST article - U.S. And European Airlines May Miss Another Atlantic Summer
Airlines on both sides of the Atlantic are focusing their efforts on domestic and nearby travel this summer, as governments remain cautious about reopening borders.
While some transatlantic travel has been allowed to restart, including services between the U.S. and parts of Southern Europe, travel between North America and the rest of the continent looks likely to remain mostly closed through the peak summer season, increasing the odds that a true transatlantic restart will have to wait until this fall, at the earliest.
“A clear path forward, relying on current data and science, is needed to ease entry restrictions and quickly and safely reopen this critical segment of America’s economy,” the executives wrote, including the heads of Delta Air Lines, JetBlue Airways, Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines.
It appears the Biden administration has not been particularly moved by the effort. On May 20, a White House spokesperson said there were “no planned changes to travel restrictions at the moment,” according to Reuters. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, meanwhile, deflected a question at a press conference the same day about a timeline to reopen, insisting that any decision lies with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
For months now, European network carriers have been calling for more clarity, coordination and flexibility on travel to underpin a recovery in demand, with the normally lucrative transatlantic market, the biggest international aviation market by capacity—pre-COVID at least—particularly in the spotlight.
In recent weeks there has been some good news, with European Parliament and European Council negotiators saying May 20 they had reached a provisional agreement paving the way for the implementation before summer of an EU COVID certificate.
This document—digital or paper—will show COVID-19 vaccination status and test results or recovery from the disease and is aimed at encouraging a recovery in travel.
Lufthansa executive board member Harry Hohmeister called for a “clear perspective” for U.S. travel in a May 18 statement, in which he noted demand for summer flights to the U.S. had risen dramatically compared to previous months, with a 300% jump in demand for services to Los Angeles, New York and Miami. The airline group has increased flights to and from the U.S. as of June, returning to destinations such as Atlanta and Orlando, Florida.
“Because of the great significance of transatlantic air travel for the global economy, we now need a clear perspective on how travel between the U.S. and Europe can return on a larger scale,” Hohmeister said. A “lower number of infections and a rising rate of vaccinations allow for a cautious increase in transatlantic air travel. Since certain European countries have already made corresponding announcements, Germany also needs a plan for opening up transatlantic air travel.”
As many governments work toward opening their borders, Canada has yet to offer any framework for easing its strict travel restrictions, many of which have been in place since March of last year.
Mandatory 14-day quarantines for individuals entering Canada remain in place, and passengers five years and older must also take a COVID-19 test upon arrival. They must start their quarantine by staying in a hotel for three days at their own expense while awaiting results. And travelers must complete the quarantine even if they test negative. Canada recently extended its border closure with the U.S. until June 21. Some domestic travel restrictions also remain in place within Canada.
Both Air Canada and WestJet have called for an end to the hotel quarantines and continue to push for Canada to adjust travel protocols. Recently, Air Canada CEO Michael Rousseau stated the government understands the importance of travel to Canada’s economy, and while a third wave of COVID-19 infections has created challenges “at this point in time, there is work being done behind the scenes to prepare.”