UK-US travel restrictions will cost £11bn in 2020 – report

Restrictions on UK-US travel will cost the UK economy at least £11 billion this year, according to a report commissioned by leading aviation industry firms.

Some £32 million will be wiped from UK GDP each day from next month if constraints aimed at tackling the coronavirus pandemic remain in place, the study suggests.

The analysis found that the total capacity of flights planned between the UK and the US this month is around 85% down on September 2019.

Airline trade body Airlines UK, British Airways’ owner IAG, Heathrow Airport and aviation services company Collinson commissioned consultancy York Aviation to carry out the research.

People arriving in the UK from the US are required to self-isolate for 14 days, while the US will not allow foreigners to enter if they have been in the UK during the previous 14 days.

Heathrow chief executive John Holland-Kaye said the report’s findings are “a stark warning that action is needed immediately to safely open up connections with our key trading partners in the US”.

He has repeatedly called for the UK Government to reduce the quarantine requirements for passengers who pay for coronavirus tests and get negative results.

He said: “We can start with flights to New York, a city where infection rates are now lower than here, and which is the UK’s most valuable route.

“PCR testing in private labs, both pre-flight and on arrival, would ensure that there is no risk of importing Covid and could pave the way to a common international standard for aviation testing.”

The US is the UK’s biggest market for inbound travellers, with nearly four million visits in 2019.

Arrivals from the US spent a total of £3.8 billion last year but that is expected to fall by £3.1 billion in 2020, according to the report.

Passengers arrive at Heathrow Airport
Passengers arrive at Heathrow Airport

The analysis stated that the average length of each trip is seven days, meaning the UK’s quarantine rules “effectively lock these high-spending visitors out of the UK”.

It also warned of a “catastrophic loss in trade between the US and the UK of £45.8 billion due to closed borders”.

British Airways chief executive Alex Cruz said: “Government inaction on aviation and its impact on Britain’s economy couldn’t be clearer. Time is running out.

“Ministers must reach agreement with their US counterparts on a testing regime that minimises quarantine and permits regional travel corridors to reopen the UK-US market.

“They must learn from trials across the globe and start implementing new measures as soon as possible to return confidence in flying and protect thousands of jobs.”

The study noted that airport-based testing for Covid-19 is used by more than 30 countries and at many of the world’s busiest airports, including Paris Charles de Gaulle, Tokyo Haneda and Dubai International.

A testing facility has been set up at Heathrow in a partnership including Collinson, but it will not begin operating unless the UK Government relaxes its quarantine rules.