When the government’s roadmap out of lockdown was announced last month, we saw an immediate spike in activity on our website as people searched for flights to Europe and beyond, writes British Airways boss Sean Doyle.
The UK vaccination program is an example to the world. The NHS has bought millions of doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, stabbed about 30 million people, and remains on track to vaccinate all adults by the end of July.
This is a remarkable achievement by everyone’s standards.
With deaths and hospital admissions in the UK steadily declining, scientists suggest the risk of serious illness from Covid-19 is decreasing.
Public Health England has confirmed that a single dose of the Pfizer or AstraZeneca vaccine reduces the risk of hospitalization by 80 percent, and a single shot reduces the risk of infection.
This great work means that now is the time to get back to something close to normal life, which for us means we plan to get back on the air this summer.
As an airline, safety is in our DNA and will never be endangered.
The rollout of vaccines is making things much safer at home and in many places around the world. While it is currently difficult in some parts of Europe, we know things will change within a few months. Germany, France and Spain are stepping up their vaccination programs, while at the same time using lockdowns to control their outbreaks.
We cannot delay the massive planning process that needs to get underway to begin the restart of complex aviation operations if it is safe. If we do, we risk missing out on all summer, a near-fatal blow to the travel industry.
I see a huge pent-up demand for travel. When the government’s roadmap out of lockdown was announced last month, we saw an immediate spike in activity on our website as people searched for flights to Europe and beyond. I saw my colleagues’ mood rise visibly at the prospect of a return to near normalcy.
Every day I receive heartbreaking emails from customers desperate to fly again, to reunite with family members, friends, loved ones, some of whom have been separated for over a year.
At the same time, many of our customers want to get back to work. They suffer from the so-called ‘Zoom fatigue’ and they lack the real face-to-face meetings they need to close the deals that make money for the UK.
We cannot delay the massive planning process that needs to get underway to begin the restart of complex aviation operations if it is safe. If we do, we risk missing out on all summer, a near-fatal blow to the travel industry
Aviation contributes £ 22 billion directly to the UK economy every year. We all know that business is done between people, not between companies, and those real-life connections are crucial to building relationships.
And let’s face it – millions of us need a vacation after the toughest year most of us have ever been through.
Portugal, Cyprus, Greece, France and Spain have all indicated that they want to welcome Britons in the coming months who can prove they have had a negative Covid test or vaccination. In America, more than 135 million people have been vaccinated, and President Biden says he expects all American adults to get the shot by early May, amid reports that the US government could ease travel restrictions on British citizens mid-day. the same month.
Transportation Secretary Grant Shapps has said that a combination of vaccination, testing and travel passes will be key to getting international travel back on track, and we agree.
Such schemes are already underway. The EU has announced that it will set up a system of Covid certification for travelers entering EU countries.
It is clear that our government needs to work with the EU, as well as the US and other countries to lift current restrictions and agree on travel certification.
We may be a small island, but we are way over our weight, and the government could really lead the world with a strategy to restart global travel. This is essential for our customers, who want certainty.
We support the introduction of a system that states where we can travel safely and which rules apply.
Once that is done, people who are vaccinated should be able to fly freely, just like in 2019, before the pandemic.
People who have not been vaccinated should also be able to travel freely – provided they can provide evidence of a recent negative test result.
We may have been stuck in the longest pattern ever at Heathrow for the past year, but I can assure you that we have done everything we can to prepare for a return to flying and to make travel safe and easy for our customers. Since last summer, we’ve been advocating pre-departure testing as a safe way for people to travel.
Aviation contributes £ 22 billion directly to the UK economy every year. We all know that business is done between people, not between companies, and those real-life connections are crucial to build relationships
We are partnering with a company that produces lateral flow tests that can be packed in a suitcase and used to enter the UK so the virus is not brought in. The cost of these tests, which provide an answer in 20 minutes – £ 33.
We have also helped develop and test digital apps that can include test certificates and possibly Covid vaccination data to ensure passengers can verify that they have the correct documents for their journey and get through the airport smoothly.
I believe these are the key to unlocking international travel safely.
We are also working with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) on its new Travel Pass initiative and are piloting another app, VeriFLY, on all our flights to America and on all international flights to the UK.
We are also developing our own document verification system on our website, ba.com, which we try out on flights to India. We will soon be expanding this to other destinations.
During the pandemic, we kept going, despite the tremendous difficulties.
We proudly fly the flag on all of our tail fins and we are not taking that responsibility lightly. Last year we flew thousands of tons of PPE and health supplies to the UK and brought home more than 40,000 Britons from abroad.
At times last year, our number of flights has been reduced to about five percent of our 2019 schedule and we have given more than 20,000 of our people time off. We were forced to restructure our business to survive and save the jobs of our remaining 30,000 colleagues.
Since joining British Airways last October, I have been fully focused on helping the airline out of the Covid crisis. There is real hope for the future if we act now.
But if we are to realize the Prime Minister’s vision of a truly global Britain, his Global Travel Taskforce must confirm a framework for international travel to start over on May 17, when it reports in the coming days.
That way we can get the world out of this terrible pandemic. Otherwise, the UK risks becoming a leader in vaccines, but lagging behind in the economy – with potentially catastrophic consequences for individuals and the nation as a whole.
Aircraft cannot reverse, they can only move forward. That’s why you see the tugs pushing them towards the taxiway.
The image feels quite appropriate for where we are now. We can’t go back. We have to move forward and we can’t wait to get back on the air and tell our customers how much we’ve missed them.