Germany's main aviation industry group has proposed the creation of limited air-travel corridors between major U.S. and European hubs, a bid to crack open the nearly dormant market for trans-Atlantic flight.
The pilot projects would link U.S. airports in Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles and New York City-adjacent Newark, with Frankfurt and Munich in Germany, along with other major European intercontinental hubs, executives at BDL, which represents Germany’s airports and airlines, said in an online press briefing.
The proposal, which would require passengers to produce a negative test for Covid-19 before flying, is an effort to revive a market that’s the industry’s biggest profit producer and help major European airlines groups such as Lufthansa and IAG – parent to British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus – recover from the pandemic.
London-New York was the world’s top revenue-generating route with more than $1 billion in annual sales before governments imposed lengthy travel bans to contain the coronavirus earlier this year.
Covid-19 testing exists at the German airports and could quickly be installed elsewhere, according to the BDL executives, Matthias von Randow and Peter Gerber.
British Airways is already is considering offering pre-flight Covid-19 testing for specific destinations, reportedly through a partnership with UK high street chemist chain Boots, which already acts as an agent for the UAE's mandatory Covid tests required before boarding an Emirates or Etihad Airways flight.
"We are currently discussing the possibility of helping our customers access pre-flight testing through third parties if their destination requires this, however no plans have been finalised," a spokesperson for the airline said.
Boots is owned by American pharmacy giant Walgreens, which could in turn open up testing on both sides of the Atlantic.
Lufthansa, IAG and Air France-KLM all have commercial partnerships with one of the large U.S. network airlines. However, the plan will need to involve the foreign, transport and health ministries in Germany alone, while a multitude of international authorities have to agree on which kind of test would be accepted, BDL said.
Four major airlines in the U.S. and Europe last month called on U.S. Vice President Mike Pence and Ylva Johansson, the European commissioner for home affairs, to reach an international agreement on testing to allow broad trans-Atlantic travel.
A reopening of trans-Atlantic flight would give a huge boost to major network carriers, which on the U.S. side include Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines.
The International Air Transport Association has warned that long-distance flying will take years to return to 2019 levels and has urged countries to unify travel rules to speed the comeback.
Constantly changing restrictions have held back the aviation recovery in Europe, while state-by-state outbreaks have limited U.S. domestic travel.
The U.S. government has so far been unwilling to impose any restrictions on airline passengers, such as requiring face coverings or temperature checks. All such measures have been imposed by carriers themselves or local agencies and airports.
Support from US airlines
United is in close touch with its partner Lufthansa on the German proposal, spokeswoman Leslie Scott said in an email. “As we indicated in the letter to U.S. and European authorities, we support passenger testing as a means of safely re-opening international markets,” she said.
Delta said it would be “premature” to comment on the report. “We are still working on what our position should be as it relates to testing and international travel,” a spokeswoman said by email.
The BDL executives said their plan is being proposed to aviation authorities in Europe and the U.S., and so far officials in North America seemed somewhat more open to the idea.
A spokeswoman for Boston Logan International, Jennifer Mehigan, said the airport isn’t aware of the German effort. It doesn’t have any coronavirus testing measures, though some airlines do their own testing for international flight crews.
Europe’s busiest airport hub, London Heathrow, is working on a testing mechanism and industry executives are lobbying the British government to replace quarantines with virus tests as a means of screening travelers from high-risk countries. A spokeswoman for Heathrow said it wasn’t involved in the German proposal.
Aeroports de Paris said it isn’t aware of the German plan either, though has already started testing at its hubs. A negative test is required to enter the country from some nations.
Traffic between Paris airports and North America was down 94% in July, according to hub-operator ADP’s monthly report.
Additional reporting by David Flynn
This article is published under license from Bloomberg Media: the original article can be viewed here