Iata hails UK change on US arrivals but slams ‘ridiculous anomaly’

Iata director general Willie Walsh hailed the UK decision to remove quarantine rules for vaccinated arrivals from the US from Monday as “positive” but said it’s “just correcting a ridiculous anomaly”.

Walsh said restrictions on North Atlantic traffic remain “disappointing” and dismissed the UK-US taskforce on transatlantic travel, announced in early June, as a means to “avoid making a decision”.

He said: “The UK announcement that people who’ve been vaccinated can travel from the EU and US has to be seen as positive. Hopefully, it will lead to other governments following.”

But Walsh said: “It’s just correcting a ridiculous anomaly. Why should someone who has received vaccination in the UK be able to enter but someone receiving vaccines in Europe or the US can’t?

“It’s just an announcement of what should already have been done.”

He dismissed concern that the US has yet to reciprocate by allowing vaccinated UK travellers entry, saying: “We don’t need to worry about there being a matched response. It is a time to take unilateral action.”

An executive order barring entry to UK and Schengen area arrivals has been in place since March 2020.

The US government recently affirmed it has no plans to lift this despite President Biden earlier suggesting he would look at it.

But referring to the US-UK taskforce on transatlantic travel announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson ahead of the G7 Summit in June, Walsh said: “Politicians do that [set up a taskforce] to avoid making a decision.

“If governments are not prepared to take decisions they should provide the data so that others can assess the risk.”

Walsh noted: “The US has given mixed signals. We saw an encouraging message from President Biden that was contradicted a few days later. Different positions are being adopted by different parts of the administration.”

But as other countries open up, he said: “I expect to see the US follow suit. We remain optimistic.”

He insisted “we’re very confident” the Iata annual general meeting will go ahead as planned in Boston in October.

Walsh also insisted: “I see no reason why the UK should not open up to passengers vaccinated in other countries with vaccines approved by the World Health Organisation.”

Iata chief economist Ezgi Gulbas noted: “Bookings in Europe for the US are about 90% down [on 2019]. Bookings in the US for Europe lifted since May to around 60% down [after the EU allowed entry to vaccinated arrivals from the US].”

Gulbas pointed out Europe accounts for 30% of US carriers’ international passenger revenue and the US for 15% of European carriers’ international turnover and said: “Restoring connectivity is critical for both sides.”

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