Joe Biden arrives in the UK for G7 summit
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This week Joe Biden makes his first official visit to the UK since winning the presidential election last year. One major topic of discussion is likely to be the possibility of permitting travel to resume between the UK and US once again. Presently, the US is listed as an amber country by the UK Government, which means people should not travel there for non-essential reasons.
Will Biden and Boris agree to lift the travel ban?
Anyone travelling to the US currently is required to self-isolate for 10 days upon their return to the UK and undergo Covid testing.
But on Thursday, Mr Biden and Mr Johnson are expected to agree to launch a taskforce, which will make recommendations on safely restarting international travel between the UK and the US.
International Trade Minister Greg Hands confirmed on Thursday that the UK and US are looking to find a way transatlantic travel can resume after months of restrictions due to COVID-19.
Mr Hands told Sky News: “We are launching a working group together.
“We will be looking at how we can reopen transatlantic travel between the US and the UK.
“We are looking at that as a matter of priority. It is very important that we get that transatlantic relationship reset up in terms of travel between the two countries.”
The new working group will be overseen by the UK’s Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, along with other senior officials in the transport department and US equivalent officials.
How has the travel industry reacted?
While news of a dedicated UK/US taskforce will undoubtedly provide some relief to travel operators, industry leaders are calling for clarity on possible dates for reopening transatlantic travel as the travel sector continues to suffer after more than a year of disruption.
Virgin Atlantic chief executive Shai Weiss described the creation of a taskforce as “a first step towards reopening the skies”.
However, Mr Weiss warned that the “absence of a definitive timeframe” means airlines, businesses and consumers have not been given “much-needed clarity” during this time of uncertainty.
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He said: “Restrictions on transatlantic travel are costing the UK £23 million each day and, despite one of the highest vaccination rates globally, the UK is now falling behind the EU’s reopening.
“For global Britain to be seen as the best place to do business, visit and invest, UK Government must act immediately to safely reopen the skies.”
Clive Wratten, chief executive of the Business Travel Association, said the new group is “the latest in a long line of travel taskforces which so far have only wreaked further devastation on our industry”.
He continued: “Jobs won’t be saved, nor livelihoods protected until we are given a certainty on dates for the resumption of international travel.”
The travel industry is struggling significantly after Portugal was removed from the UK’s travel green list last week.
The news international travel could resume last month was met with delight by holidaymakers, but many were disappointed when only a select number of holiday destinations featured on the green list.
Portugal’s removal from the green list last week prompted an exodus of tourists from the region, as people rushed to avoid the mandatory 10-day quarantine imposed on people returning from amber listed countries to the UK.
With other countries on the green list like Australia and New Zealand currently closed to tourists, Portugal’s axeing from the green list means there are no major beach destinations left for people in the UK to travel to.
The blow came after months of disruption for airlines, which have suffered billions of pounds in losses since the pandemic began.
Airlines UK, a trade association representing UK carriers, said in a letter to the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak: “If a meaningful reopening is not possible during the summer given current Government policy and application of the Global Travel Taskforce recommendations, then targeted economic support will be essential to ensure UK airlines are able to reach the point when a restart is possible, in order to protect many tens of thousands of jobs.”
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