Global airlines relieved of lifting ban on travel to the United States

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PARIS (AFP) – The United States’ decision to lift restrictions on inbound travelers vaccinated against Covid-19 has been greeted with a sigh of relief by the global aviation industry, which has been hit hard by the pandemic.

While transatlantic flights have traditionally been among the most lucrative for Europe’s biggest airlines, Monday, September 20’s announcement was “tremendous news” for a sector that has bled tens of billions of euros over the past 18 years. months, said Benjamin Smith, boss of Air France-KLM. told AFP.

For most European airlines – like Air France, British Airways and Lufthansa – restrictions on long-haul routes across the Atlantic have been particularly hard to swallow.

Air France-KLM, for example, generates 40 percent of its revenue from its North Atlantic services, and for Germany’s Lufthansa, the proportion is 50 percent.

“Today’s news (…) marks a historic moment,” said Sean Doyle, director of British Airways.

“Our customers should now feel that the world is opening up to them and they can book their trips with confidence.”

American airlines such as United, Delta, and American are much more domestically oriented and less dependent on international services, which account for 25 to 30 percent of revenues. But they too have welcomed the news.

“Today’s announcement marks a positive step in our nation’s recovery,” said Airlines for America industry association chief Nicholas Calio.

Sister organization Airlines for Europe tweeted that it “similarly applauds the decision,” which “would give a much needed boost to transatlantic traffic and #tourism and reunite families and friends.”

The International Air Transport Association, or Iata, which has 290 member airlines representing 82% of global air transport, described it as “a big step forward.”

“This is great news for families and loved ones … It’s good for the millions of livelihoods in the United States who depend on global tourism. And it will boost economic recovery by enabling some key travel markets. business, ”said Willie Walsh, CEO of Iata. noted.

Iata has been asking for months that travel restrictions be “guided by science” and take into account the immunization status of travelers.

European airlines were hoping transatlantic routes would reopen in time for the main summer vacation season.

But while Europe has reopened its internal borders, Washington has remained cautious. And transatlantic traffic this year was half the levels recorded in 2019.

The US move is “actually a little later than we expected given what we know about the effectiveness of the vaccines. We expected it for the summer,” the analyst said. CFRA Research Colin Scarola.

Mr George Dimitroff, analyst at Ascend by Cirium, an air transport data specialist, warned that while European airlines are now ready to restart the engines of more planes crossing the Atlantic, the recovery will still be slow.

“We wouldn’t expect to see an increase in airline schedules anytime soon, off the busiest routes,” he said.

“Additional capacity could be added around the holiday season, but the most significant improvements are expected to occur in March 2022, when airlines prepare for their summer schedules,” he said. he declares.

Morningstar analyst Burkett Huey pointed out that “if you don’t fill a plane 75-80%, the trip will not be profitable. You need travelers from both sides ”.

Mr Dimitroff said he expected “business travel will start to pick up in the fourth quarter of this year … as European business travelers will be able to visit US customers and suppliers.” But analyst Mr. Scarola was more careful.

“While this is certainly a step in the right direction, it does not really improve the uncertainty about the two key elements that will be needed for the resumption of international travel: how is the pandemic going. take place in the coming months… and is a big chunk of business travel going to be missing because of the virtual meeting tools that are now available? ”

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