The lifting of a travel ban which allows fully vaccinated passengers from the UK and most of the EU has been heralded as a “breakthrough” by pilots’ association BALPA and an “historic moment” by BA chief Sean Doyle.

The White House announced yesterday that the US will lift Covid-19 travel restrictions to allow fully vaccinated passengers from the UK and most European Union countries to travel into the country from early November. The travel ban was imposed by Donald Trump more than 18 months ago. Lifting of the restrictions comes after intense lobbying from Brussels and London.

Government must not underestimate challenges faced by sector

The British Airline Pilots’ Association welcomed the lifting of the travel ban, but highlighted the difficulties faced by the aviation industry as it tried to balance a potential ramp up in demand against months of losses. The association said many pilots remain furloughed and systems and training must be put in place to ensure a safe return to operations to meet the increased demand.

BALPA Acting General Secretary Martin Chalk said: “We are delighted that the Government has heard our calls and recognised the importance of reducing restrictions and opening up vital transatlantic routes. This announcement will help UK aviation to rebuild after the devastating summer and will provide a much needed boost to public confidence.

“But it is important the Government does not underestimate the challenges the sector faces. Aviation was the first into lockdown and the last out and with little to no flying for such a long time the industry is clearly cash strapped. Now we have a chance to get flying again… but it is not cheap to do so. We need to ensure the systems and training are in place so that skilled workers can reskill and operations can resume in a safety conscious manner.

“That’s why we still need investment now to ensure we are ready to make the most of the increased demand and are able to compete with our global competitors,” he added.

Doyle: “huge boost to global Britain”

British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle described the US announcement as “a historic moment and one which will provide a huge boost to global Britain as it emerges from this pandemic”.

In addition to the UK and the 26 Schengen countries in Europe, the easing of restrictions will also apply to Ireland, China, Iran, Brazil, South Africa and India.

Welcoming the move on Twitter, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: “It’s a fantastic boost for business and trade, and great that family and friends on both sides of the pond can be reunited once again.”

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