US officials are hoping to open up a travel corridor between New York City and London as soon as this winter. The corridor would allow passengers heading to the United Kingdom or the United States to bypass quarantine requirements and allow for a limited reopening of travel between the two countries.
The travel corridor
Sources told the Wall Street Journal that travel between New York City and London could open up by the holiday season thanks to growing testing availability for passengers. In the US, various government agencies such as the Department of Transportation, Homeland Security, and others have been working on a plan to open up international travel between the United States and other international destinations, such as Europe.
The plan would require passengers to be tested for the virus before their flight and after arrival. To be successful, the project needs approval from both agencies abroad and within the United States, though the latter has shown an interest in reviving travel sooner rather than later.
The plan to open up a corridor with testing has reportedly been approved by the White House’s National Security Council. That, however, is just one piece of the puzzle, but an important one.
The current travel policies
Passengers heading to the United Kingdom must quarantine for 14 days, and, in general, most passengers cannot travel from the United States to the European Union. Back in March, President Trump issued a travel ban for non-US citizens and permanent residents who have been in Europe or the United Kingdom and Ireland in the last 14 days.
Combined, this has brought transatlantic travel between the US and UK to a near halt, shutting down one of the most essential business corridors between New York and London – a route that is rife with competition.
Airlines were not fans of the travel bans. For the big three US airlines and plenty of carriers abroad, transatlantic travel is one of the most lucrative markets in the world. As a result, carriers have been lobbying for a reopening of transatlantic travel for more than just cargo. Thus far, this has been unsuccessful, and airlines lost out on a traditionally profitable summer transatlantic season.
How would testing work?
Testing has become far more ubiquitous in recent months. Even airlines have taken the mantle and have started building new partnerships with health agencies to offer passengers preflight testing. For many destinations in the Caribbean, Central America, and (soon) Hawaii, passengers need to have a negative test before departure. So, it is not unprecedented for travel to open up with testing requirements.
There are also ways to strengthen these requirements for other governments wary of letting Americans in, where infection rates have had their ups and downs. Some ideas include requiring testing before and after flying, shorter quarantines in which passengers have to take two tests and then be allowed to travel, or offering two different types of testing such as rapid tests and PCR tests.
Ultimately, government agencies and public health officials will be the ones to help open up transatlantic travel. And, this is no set guarantee. Talks about a New York-UK corridor are not new, but many have raised concerns over passengers connecting in New York as a means to get around travel restrictions. And, there is an argument that, if passengers are getting tested on both ends, it does not make much sense to leave the rest of the United States closed off for nonstop travel.
Onboard the aircraft, most people are unlikely to contract COVID-19, especially with masks mandated for most of the flight. Also, the air onboard jets are usually refreshed every few minutes. And, of course, testing should help provide another barrier, though not 100% foolproof. Combined, however, this might just be a recipe for reopening travel, and New York to London might just be the test engine before growing to the rest of the country.
For now, it remains to be seen if anything amounts from this initiative.
Do you think the US and UK should open up a New York-London travel corridor? Let us know in the comments!