Airlines urge UK, U.S. to start London-New York passenger testing trial

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Major airlines want the U.S. and British governments to launch a passenger testing trial for the coronavirus for flights between London and New York to pave the way for a resumption of more international travel.

FILE PHOTO: Passengers from international flights arrive at Heathrow Airport, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), London, Britain, July 29, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville

In a letter to government transportation officials seen by Reuters, the chief executives of Airlines for America, Airlines UK, Heathrow Airport and Virgin Atlantic Airways said both governments should “establish passenger testing solutions in air travel.

“We believe that in the immediate absence of a vaccine, testing of passengers in aviation provides the best and most effective frontline defense.”

They urged the governments to establish a testing trial between New York and London by month’s end “to gather real world evidence and data.”

Sharon Pinkerton, senior vice president at Airlines for America, which represents American Airlines Co (AAL.O), Delta Air Lines (DAL.N), United Airlines (UAL.O) and others, told reporters on Thursday the industry wanted a pilot program to help boost international travel.

U.S. international travel has fallen by 87% during the coronavirus pandemic, which has battered the airline industry.

“One of the key steps to recovery is setting up an international pilot program between the U.S. and either Europe, Canada, somewhere in the Pacific,” she said, saying that could help eliminate some of the international quarantines now in place.

The U.S. Transportation Department said it “stands ready to support the safe resumption of international flights between the U.S. and Europe. Conversations are ongoing between the federal government, international partners, and industry stakeholders on these matters.”

A UK government representative declined to comment on the proposal.

In March, U.S. President Donald Trump barred most non-U.S. citizens who had been in the UK recently from entering the United States – restrictions also imposed on travelers in the European Union and China.

Americans can travel to the UK but have been required since spring to spend two weeks in quarantine on arrival.

Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Peter Cooney

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