Airline Execs Request COVID-19 Testing to Resume Transatlantic Flights


Executives from four of the largest American and European airlines sent a letter Tuesday to the White House and European Union to request a new coordinated program to test passengers for COVID-19 in order to restore flights between the U.S. and Europe.

United Airlines Holdings Inc., American Airlines Group Inc., Deutsche Lufthansa AG and IAG SA, owner of British Airways, wrote the joint letter to Vice President Mike Pence and EU Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson.

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“In addition to all the significant and unprecedented actions that governments and airlines are taking to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus, a coordinated COVID-19 testing program could be key to providing confidence to permit services to resume without quarantine requirements or other entry restrictions,” the letter said.

Because of the high coronavirus infection rates, nearly all travel between Europe and the U.S. is currently banned. Citing the global economy and desired economic recovery of the airline industry, the airlines said it is critical to find a way to reopen transatlantic air services.

“We recognize that testing presents a number of challenges, however we believe that a pilot testing program for the transatlantic market could be an excellent opportunity for government and industry to work together and find ways to overcome obstacles and explore all solutions to protect health, build confidence and safely restore passenger travel between the U.S. and Europe,” they wrote.

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The letter did not outline any strategies of how to implement the pilot testing program.

At a briefing July 7, Alexandre de Juniac, director general and CEO of the International Air Transport Association, said a passenger survey showed the coronavirus pandemic will have a “long shadow” on the airline industry and international travel.

“Fewer passengers are saying that they will travel again in the first months after the pandemic subsides,” said de Juniac. “In early April 61% said that they would. By early June that fell to 45%. And about two thirds are seeing less travel in their future—be it for vacation, visiting friends/relatives or business.”

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Before the pandemic, Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (MSY) had direct flights to London on British Airways and had anticipated the return of seasonal direct flights to Frankfurt, Germany on Condor Airlines. Because of the travel restrictions, there are currently no direct European flights in operation from New Orleans. MSY reported overall passenger activity was down 90% for the month of June compared to the same period last year, and said that was similar to what other U.S. airports experienced.

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) recorded traveler throughput of 530,421 yesterday compared to 2,499,460 one year ago.


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