LONDON (Reuters) – The chief executive of British Airways said there was a “great opportunity” for Britain and the United States to open a travel corridor given their high vaccination rates, and said he was optimistic for European travel from June onwards.
Airlines are readying their planes, pilots and crew for travel this summer, hoping for a bounce back after over a year of pandemic restrictions, although governments have yet to agree the details of how and when the restart will work.
British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle, who took the helm of the IAG-owned airline in the middle of the COVID-19 crisis last October, said that travel between Britain and the United States should be restriction-free.
“If you look at the progress of vaccinations that the UK and the US have made, they’re almost neck and neck,” he said, speaking to an online industry conference.
“I think the U.S. is a great opportunity to get up and running again.”
Travel between Europe and the United States is also on the cards.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told a newspaper on Sunday that all Americans who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 should be able to travel to Europe by the summer.
Europe’s vaccination programme lags the progress made in Britain and the United States, but Doyle said that June would be a tipping point.
“I think it does give you room for optimism that Europe will be able to open up,” he said.
Shares in many travel stocks traded higher on Monday, buoyed by von der Leyen’s comments, including BA-owner, IAG, which was up 4.3%.
Global airlines industry body IATA said that von der Leyen’s comments gave people hope, but called on the European Commission to provide dates and public health benchmarks to help airlines plan.
“To fulfil that hope, details of the European Commission’s intentions are essential,” IATA director general Willie Walsh said.
Doyle called on Britain to make its travel rules more simple and accessible, and said more co-ordination between different countries on travel rules was needed.
(Reporting by Sarah Young, Editing by Paul Sandle and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)