CEOs of United, American, Lufthansa, More Propose Joint Testing Program to Restore Air Travel Between U.S., Europe

"We believe it is critical to find a way to re-open air services between the U.S. and Europe,” they wrote in a letter.

Airline executives on Tuesday called on the U.S. and European Union to once again allow air travel between the two regions by implementing a COVID-19 testing program.

CEOs of United Airlines, American Airlines, Lufthansa Group, and the International Airlines Group (which includes British Airways and Iberia), made the request in a letter addressed “with urgency” to Vice President Mike Pence and Ylva Johansson, the European commissioner for home affairs, which was obtained by Travel + Leisure.

“The response to this crisis continues to require the cooperation of governments, citizens and businesses on both sides of the Atlantic,” the letter read, adding that while they “appreciate” the “comprehensive” safety guidelines, they feel it is imperative to restart transatlantic flights.

“Given the unquestioned importance of transatlantic air travel to the global economy as well as to the economic recovery of our businesses, we believe it is critical to find a way to re-open air services between the U.S. and Europe,” they wrote.

United and Lufthansa plane
Boris Roessler/picture alliance via Getty Images

To facilitate this, the CEOs proposed a joint U.S. and EU testing program as a “tool” to allow travel to resume without the need for quarantine measures.

“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,” the letter said. “Nobody will benefit from a prolonged closure of this most indispensable corridor for global aviation.”

Currently, visitors coming from the U.S. are not allowed to enter most of Europe for non-essential travel. That follows the European Union’s recommendation starting July 1 that it open its borders to certain non-EU countries. The U.S. implemented its own ban on travel from Europe back in March.

If the proposed pilot program is implemented, it wouldn’t be the first time COVID-19 tests were administered at airports. Vienna International Airport offers tests for arriving passengers and Iceland requires visitors to get tested upon arrival to avoid quarantine.

London’s Heathrow Airport is also considering offering COVID-19 testing upon arrival to bypass the county’s own quarantine requirements.

Those who choose to travel are strongly encouraged to check local government restrictions, rules, and safety measures related to COVID-19 before departure — and take personal comfort levels and health conditions into consideration.

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