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Flights between London and New York ‘could restart by Christmas’

Governments and airports are working on a new testing scheme that could reopen transatlantic travel

Huw Oliver
Written by
Huw Oliver

In a normal year, 5 million tourists visit the USA from the UK and 4.5 million go the other way. Travel between the two countries has been all but impossible since March. But now the British and American governments are said to be in talks to introduce a ‘transatlantic air bridge’ connecting London and New York – meaning that your dream city break (or that all-important family reunion) could be back on the cards.

The US and UK governments, along with airport leaders at JFK in New York and London’s Heathrow, are aiming to reopen travel by introducing quick-turnaround testing before passengers board flights.

At the end of September, Heathrow Airport chief exec John Holland-Kaye told Travel Weekly that he hoped to be running flights to New York by Thanksgiving, at the end of November. The New York-London route would act as a trial for the scheme in the second half of October, with passengers paying £150 ($193) to be tested.

Now the US Department of Homeland Security has told the Wall Street Journal that a similar plan is in process for testing passengers leaving New York, to ‘safely encourage trans-Atlantic travel while mitigating public-health risks.’ According to this report, the target is to restart regular flights by Christmas.

The WSJ also reports that US officials are in discussion with Germany about a similar ‘air bridge’ arrangement.

The hope is that testing at airports before departure would let countries relax their current strict quarantine measures. At the moment, Brits are banned from entering the USA altogether, while Americans can fly to the UK but must self-isolate for 14 days on arrival. (US citizens cannot travel at all to most EU countries.)

Under the new plan, it is hoped that transatlantic travel could resume with a much shorter quarantine period – anything from 24 hours to seven days – despite rising cases in both London and New York.

However, Holland-Kaye warned that it would likely be ‘much longer’ until there was sufficient capacity to allow anyone to travel freely between the two cities, and the WSJ reports that discussions are at an early stage. Still, wouldn’t it be great to spend Christmas in London or get festive in New York? Keep dreaming…

Remember, many countries are still warning against all non-essential travel and some are quarantining all overseas arrivals, including their own returning citizens. Check all the relevant restrictions before you think about travelling.

Where can you travel right now? Here’s what you need to know.

How safe is flying right now? We asked an expert.

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