Travel corridor may ‘open up in time for Christmas’ as London to New York flight launches

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A covid-safe flight is due to jet off between London and New York this week in a bid to help move plans forward in developing a safe route between the UK and US. It is a move that has been described as “a huge boost for both the leisure and business traveller” by one aviation expert.

The scheme is being run by United Airlines and will last one month to determine whether a safe link can feasibly be set up.

Findings will be shared with authorities on both sides of the pond.

The first flight is due to land at Heathrow on Tuesday morning.

All passengers who board the flight will be guaranteed not to have the COVID-19 virus, after undergoing tests ahead of departure.

Josh Earnest, United Airlines’ chief communication officer, explained: “The benefit right now is that people – for free – can have the peace of mind knowing when they board the plane that everyone else who’s on that plane has recently tested negative for COVID-19.”

The United Airlines trial will be free for passengers, with rapid testing taking place at Newark Airport in New York.

The airline has transformed one of its lounges, the United Club, into an onsite testing facility.

All passengers will receive their results before the plane departs.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, Catriona Taylor, passenger director at global aircraft charter specialist Chapman Freeborn, said: “It is very good for the entire aviation industry, including the Air Charter industry.

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“We’ve all been waiting for a solution to be able to start travelling again.

“This would be a huge boost for both the leisure and business traveller and for the economy.”

Should the trial prove a success, Ms Taylor believes travellers may be given the green light to jet off to the US once again.

“It is Incredibly positive news for travel and the aviation industry,” she said.

“Not only would it give peace of mind for travellers, but the airlines and the crews on board. More travel corridors could open up as a result of a successful trial.”

She added: “Other countries are waiting for a solution, so if successful this trial could mean others will follow suit and allow travel to open up in time for Christmas and winter travel.”

Similarly, Bayram Annakov, CEO and founder of personal travel assistant App in the Air believes testing will aid passenger confidence and ultimately provide a boost for the travel industry.

“United’s pilot scheme is definitely a great thing for the travel industry,” he said.

“The demand for travel has clearly been demonstrated through other international travel bubbles such the Singapore and Hong Kong corridor, which saw surges in searches and bookings when it was announced.”

He added: “Whilst testing addresses passenger confidence, which will positively impact the traffic, the key to the success of this plan will lie in the UK and US removing restrictions or requirements to self-quarantine, replacing with an effective testing procedure.”

Of course, the trial does also flag some safety concerns.

Ms Taylor pointed out: “The only question would be what if you contract the virus after 72 hours from your test, would you be returned home on the flight or would you have to quarantine in the location on arrival? This needs to be discussed.”

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