What Are Air Bridges & Why Is Everybody Talking About Them?

Air bridges may be a useful tool to avoid quarantine restrictions placed on international travel, such as a two-week self-isolation. Various countries may allow tourists to travel freely to one another to quickly reboot the tourism sector. How would air bridges work and are they a good idea?

easyJet coronavirus grounding
easyJet is just one airline that may benefit from air bridges with tourism destinations. Photo: Getty Images

What is an air bridge?

Air bridges are a concept proposed by a few countries in Europe to allow air travel between each other without a two-week quarantine at each destination. They would ‘bridge’ the gap between higher-risk counties, and allow tourism to flourish.

The plan will mean that tourists, for example, will be able to fly away for a weekend without having to stay locked in a hotel for two weeks at their destination. The same would be true on the return trip too.

With the current quarantine requirements in place, it will be almost impossible for the tourism industry to reopen to match what we saw before the coronavirus crisis. This will have a knock-on effect on the aviation sector, with many airlines missing out on peak travel period revenue. European summer is the main revenue period for many industries, including airlines, and many are keen to take action to salvage as much of the summer as they can.

What air bridges could we see?

The United Kindom is considering opening several air bridges to create some flexibility in the new quarantine rule coming into force on June 8th. This new policy will require all those arriving from overseas, bar the Channel Islands, Isle of Man, and Ireland, to go into isolation for two weeks.

Some of the countries that the United Kingdom are courting for its air bridge idea include the United States, France, Germany, Italy, and Portugal. The United Kingdom has not ruled out other countries as well but highlighted these destinations as a priority.

Wizz Air, Ryanair, Easyjet
The United Kingdom prefers to open an airbridge to tourism destinations first. Photo: Getty Images

In terms of aviation, unrestricted travel to these tourism destinations would greatly benefit airlines who are struggling to remain solvent.

So far, only Portugal has been receptive to the idea of an air bridge with the United Kingdom.

“[Britain is] our main market,” claimed João Fernandes, from Algarve Tourism Board speaking in an interview to ITV. “We are talking about last year; for instance, we had six million overnight stays.”

Other countries, like Greece and Cyprus, have been less enthusiastic. While popular with holidaymakers from the United Kingdom, they have ruled out plans to allow British travelers any time soon. Likewise, Italy has opened its borders on June 3rd for EU travelers but has not granted access from the UK.

Italy Milan coronavirus
Italy is now open to tourists from the EU, but not the UK. Photo: Getty

Are air bridges a good idea?

Whether or not air bridges are safe we will leave to the pandemic experts. However, such policies could be essential to the recovery of the tourism industry around the world.

Parallels to Australia and New Zealand’s ‘bubble’ have been drawn, which when implemented will allow travelers from both to pass freely without staying for two weeks in government-imposed isolation. However, this move will only be guaranteed if both countries eliminate the virus, something that European nations may find more difficult.

If air bridges get approval from the UK government, and they can find a reciprocal country, access may be in place before the end of June. A government source speaking to The Guardian said “Obviously we want to see travel corridors introduced as soon as possible, but only when it’s safe to do so.”.

What do you think? Should countries create air bridges to one another? Let us know in the comments.