British Airways calls for vaccinated people to travel without restrictions

Airline's chief executive has urged Britain to work with other governments to allow vaccines and health apps to open up travel

FILE PHOTO: A passenger from France poses for a picture holding her negative result on the first day of mandatory negative PCR test for all travellers arriving from countries with a high risk of contracting of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) upon arriving at Adolfo Suarez Barajas airport in Madrid, Spain, November 23, 2020. REUTERS/Sergio Perez/File Photo
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The new boss of British Airways said vaccinated people and non-vaccinated people with a negative Covid-19 test should be allowed to travel without restriction, as he set out his ideas for a travel restart a month before the UK government finalises its plans.

Holidays will not be allowed until May 17 at the earliest, the government has said, but before that, on April 12, Britain will announce how and when non-essential travel into and out of the country can resume.

Sean Doyle, appointed BA's chief executive last October, called on Britain to work with other governments to allow vaccines and health apps to open up travel, after a year when minimal flying has left many airlines on life support.

"I think people who've been vaccinated should be able to travel without restriction. Those who have not been vaccinated should be able to travel with a negative test result," he said.

Doyle said the roll-out of vaccines made him optimistic BA would be back flying this summer, but added the recovery depends on what is said on Monday, April 12.

He wants government to give its backing to health apps that can be used to verify a person's negative Covid-19 test results and vaccination status.

Apps will be key to facilitating travel at scale, the industry has said. Airline staff checking paperwork takes 20 minutes per passenger and is not practical if large numbers of passengers return.

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 26: A traveller arrives by coach at the Holiday Inn hotel at Heathrow Airport to complete a mandatory quarantine period on February 26, 2021 in London, England. Travellers arriving in the UK from February 15 2021 onwards from countries on the "red list" of restrictions have had to isolate in hotels at airports at their own expense for ten days. (Photo by Hollie Adams/Getty Images)

Britain has rapidly rolled out vaccinations and 44 per cent of the adult population, mostly people over 60, have now had their first shot.

The government has said any return to travel must be fair, and those who have not been vaccinated must not be at a disadvantage.

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We're already looking at new destinations over the summer that we haven't flown to before, and that could be across both long haul and short haul

Doyle expects Britain to bring in a tiered framework with destinations put into categories depending on risk, and that will determine BA's summer schedule.

Beyond saying there was "huge pent-up demand", Doyle declined to forecast how strong the season could be.

Budget rival Ryanair, Europe's biggest airline, has said it hopes to fly up to 70 per cent of 2019 passenger numbers this summer.

BA has struck a deal with a testing kit provider giving its passengers £33 ($46) tests to take abroad.

Travel commentators expect most European airlines to focus on short-haul leisure routes this summer, and Doyle noted France, Greece, Portugal, Cyprus and Spain had all sounded positive about welcoming British holidaymakers.

But he said BA was also looking further afield.

"We're already looking at new destinations over the summer that we haven't flown to before, and that could be across both long haul and short haul," Doyle said.

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