(New throughout, adds details and comments from executives)
LONDON/WASHINGTON, June 7 (Reuters) - The heads of all
passenger airlines flying between Britain and the United States
called on Monday for both countries to lift trans-Atlantic
travel restrictions put in place to fight the COVID-19 pandemic.
High vaccination rates in both countries meant travel could
restart safely after more than a year of restrictions, said the
CEOs of American Airlines, IAG unit British
Airways, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines and
JetBlue Airways Corp in a rare joint virtual press
The push came days ahead of this week's meetings between
U.S. President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Boris
Johnson at the G7 meeting of advanced economies this week in
Cornwall, southwest England.
U.S. and UK airline officials told Reuters they do not
expect Washington to lift restrictions until around July 4 at
the earliest as the administration aims to get more Americans
British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle said lifting
restrictions is essential.
"I think there's much more at stake here than a holiday,
it's about trade, it's about visiting friends and relatives, and
it's about getting back and doing business and re-employing
people," Doyle said.
Since March 2020, the United States has barred nearly all
non-U.S. citizens who have been in the United Kingdom within the
previous 14 days from entering the country. Most U.S. travellers
visiting the United Kingdom must quarantine for 10 days upon
Reopening is more crucial for Britain-based airlines British
Airways and Virgin Atlantic, which are not benefiting from a
rebounding domestic market like their U.S. peers.
JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said "the human cost is just I think
devastating" for people who have been vaccinated but "haven't
seen their kids, grandkids for over a year now."
The vast majority of nations do not face the entry
restrictions and were added by the United States on an ad hoc
basis. Only the 26 Schengen nations in Europe without border
controls, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil
face the restrictions.
American Airlines Chief Executive Doug Parker said the list
of countries that face those U.S. restrictions "doesn't make
much sense anymore ... vaccinated travellers are safe to
United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby said the airline "could add
pretty significant capacity" within four weeks if restrictions
were lifted. "We are in the peak travel season for travel
between the US and UK, and every single day that goes by is a
day lost for the recovery," he said.
(Reporting by Sarah Young in London and David Shepardson in
Washington; editing by Michael Holden and David Gregorio)