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Government pressured for ‘air bridge’ between London, New York but studies warn of COVID-19 transmission on long-haul flights

Analysts worry about increased travel restrictions undermining confidence in flying

International Consolidated Airlines Group - Government pressured for ‘air bridge’ between London, New York but studies warn of COVID-19 transmission on long-haul flights

Top chief executives are pressuring the UK government to create an ‘air bridge’ between London and New York to facilitate business transactions.

Ministers are asked to run trials of a COVID-19 testing system to see if travel restrictions can be reduced, the Evening Standard reported.

READ: Pubs, restaurants and airlines hit by new coronavirus restrictions in England, vaccine trial pause

The proposed plan would see passengers get tested departure or arrival as well as five days later. If both came out negative, they would not have to quarantine for two weeks.

According to a report commissioned by Heathrow airport and British Airways owner International Consolidated Airlines Group SA (LON:IAG), the UK airline industry may lose £3.5bn without US tourists and business travellers.

However, a study by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that long-haul flights have the potential to cause widespread transmission of COVID-19.

The research analysed data from a flight from Hanoi to London in March and concluded that a symptomatic passenger transmitted COVID-19 during the flight to at least 12 other passengers in business class, most likely through aerosol or droplets.

Seating proximity was strongly associated with increased infection risk.

“We believe this is catastrophic news for long-haul operators such as IAG, and may lead to continuing or even increased travel restrictions for long-haul flights and severely undermine confidence in flying, which could also spread to short-haul airlines such as easyJet, Ryanair and Wizz Air,” analysts at Peel Hunt commented.

IAG dropped 11% to 98.38p, Wizz Air Holdings PLC (LON:WIZZ) lost 8% to 3,102p, easyJet plc (LON:EZJ) shed 7% to 503.2p and Ryanair Holdings plc (LON:RYA) was down 5% to €11.48 on Monday afternoon.

Quick facts: International Consolidated Airlines Group

Price: 100.7 GBX

Market: LSE
Market Cap: £5.01 billion

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