Industry urges government to reveal further details following Atlantic Charter announcement
A new travel taskforce will explore the resumption of UK-US travel, the government has announced.
It will be overseen in the UK by transport secretary Grant Shapps and chaired by Department for Transport officials and their US counterparts.
“Many people in the UK and US have been prevented from seeing family and friends for more than 400 days as a result of coronavirus travel restrictions,” the government said.
“Before the outbreak of coronavirus, more than five million Brits visited the US and 4.5 million Americans visited the UK every year – more than any other country. The taskforce will work to explore options for resuming UK-US travel and ensure the UK and US closely share thinking and expertise on international travel policy going forward.”
ABTA spokesperson: “The US-UK link is incredibly important for business and leisure travel, as well as UK trade, so steps to get travel restarted are very welcome. However, there is little in this announcement in terms of detail or timings.
“As we move toward the next review of the traffic-light system, on June 28, the government needs to make sure that the existing traffic light system is used as intended, and that travel to the some of the most popular foreign holiday destinations is opened up in time for the industry to make the most of the critical summer holiday period.
“Consideration should also be given to capitalising on the success of the UK vaccine rollout by relaxing rules for fully vaccinated individuals when travelling between low-risk areas, as the US, and many other countries, are already doing.”
British Airways chairman and chief executive Sean Doyle said: “Prime minister Johnson and president Biden can and should take decisive action, just like their predecessors, and we’re pleased to hear they’re prioritising establishing a travel corridor between our two low-risk countries.
“This announcement is a step in the right direction, but we are now at a critical point and need action without delay, including clear criteria and a timeline. Anything other than this could result in tough consequences.”
Clive Wratten, chief executive of the Business Travel Association (BTA), said it was “a step in the right direction for transatlantic travel”.
However, he added: “This is the latest in a long line of travel taskforces which so far have only wreaked further devastation on our industry. Jobs won’t be saved or livelihoods protected until we’re given a certainty on dates for the resumption of international travel.”
The announcement comes ahead of Johnson and Biden’s first meeting in Cornwall on June 10 ahead of the G7 summit.
The leaders will agree a new Atlantic Charter, modelled on the historic statement made by Churchill and Roosevelt on the post-war world order. The government said agreements are expected to include a commitment to resume UK-US travel and a “landmark technology partnership”.
Johnson, said: “While Churchill and Roosevelt faced the question of how to help the world recover following a devastating war, today we have to reckon with a very different but no less intimidating challenge – how to build back better from the coronavirus pandemic.
“And as we do so, cooperation between the UK and US, the closest of partners and the greatest of allies, will be crucial for the future of the world’s stability and prosperity.
“The agreements President Biden and I will make today, rooted as they are in our shared values and outlook, will form the foundation of a sustainable global recovery. Eighty years ago the US president and British prime minister stood together promising a better future. Today we do the same.”