a row of yellow taxi cabs

This article was initially published on July 6th, 51 days ago, but is once again relevant with news that authorities are strongly considering the idea, finally.

Did you know there’s one singular airline route in the world which generates more than a billion dollars in revenue annually, for just one airline alone?

There’s no more “premium” route in the world than the one between New York JFK and London Heathrow, and understandably, hard hit airlines in the US & UK are eager to get it back going again. There’s just a few, well actually, quite a few issues at hand.

a city with tall buildings and a body of waterNew York Covid-19 Management

New York was among the first hit hard by covid-19 in the United States, with density among city residents among the primary early concerns. But significant measures put in place by Governor Andrew Cuomo have made a clear impact on preventing second, or third waves.

New York remains among the few states in the United States which hasn’t experienced new spikes, and has trended level or declining for months now, even after the July 4th weekend. The state is closer to claims of “herd immunity” than virtually any other, with up to 30% of city residents estimated to have contracted the virus already.

In many ways, the story of New York is a parallel to UK handling of the covid-19 crisis.

Slow out of the gates, huge early spikes, tragic death tolls, but a largely mitigated outcome ever since. Neither party is without fault, but strict measures on social distancing, hygiene and face coverings inside stores and public spaces have made a defined, and now somewhat sustained impact.

a plane engine on the ground

An Air Bridge Between The Two?

According to The Times (UK), airlines are pleading with government to create a special bridge between New York and London.

Europeans, including those from the United Kingdom are currently banned from entering the USA, with only a few exceptions for permanent residents and family members. The European Union just extended a similar ban on US visitors, unable to break the deadlock. It makes little sense for the USA to ban European visitors, since virtually all countries have lower infection rates and every country has lower death tolls.

Americans, however, are not banned from entering the UK. They’re simply subjected to a 14 day quarantine upon arrival, as a “red” country in the recently introduced UK stoplight system defining which countries a traveler can visit, or visit from, without needing to quarantine on arrival in the UK.

With billions on the table and precious summer season melting away, airlines on both sides of the Atlantic are keen to open up an air bridge between New York and the UK, creating a travel corridor where 14 day quarantine would not be required in either direction.

At the very least, they’d love UK Government Ministers to make New York an exception to the 14 day quarantine that applies to all flights from America.

They’d at least be able to fill planes in one direction, and with their new found cargo businesses, may be able to turn a slim profit until traffic in both directions picks up. The move is unabashedly aimed at rebooting commerce and business travel between the two capitals of banking and commerce, particularly as the UK moves toward the end of its days in the EU and seeks trading partners for a post #brexit world.

LONDON, UK - August 10th, 2018: view of Heathrow airport with stormy skies and British Airways airplanes at their stands

Could New York effectively break with US immigration policy and allow international visitors when the rest of the country cannot? Doubtful.

Any notion of special circumstances for New York would inevitably be met by legal and constitutional challenges, despite an administration keen on states rights, yet entirely opposed to outside immigration, and seemingly even visitors.

The UK, along with most of Europe has vastly lower rates of infection or case counts than the United States, so it makes little sense to keep those visitors out, but few are expecting that to change until January.

New York is also currently quarantining visitors from most other US states, which creates a level of security for the UK in weighing up a potential deal, knowing that travelers from areas of higher rates of infection wouldn’t easily enter the bubble. The out of state quarantine has done wonders to curb infection rates, but that doesn’t necessarily do anything to stop travelers from outside of New York attempting to visit the UK, by flying through via a connection.

To make an air bridge work, The UK and New York would need to consider…

  • Confirming state residency in NY before allowing boarding to the UK.
  • Preventing sale of connecting itineraries from outbreak states.  
  • Adding testing requirements in advance of travel to bypass or reduce 14 day quarantines.
  • Limiting travel to essential business, registered travelers, or new visa programs for leisure travelers.
  • Curbing number of daily visitors, total overall flights.

Still, it could all be worth it.

New York and London share many similarities both in the handling of covid-19 and the many sectors which are second to none in each respective city. Many businesses and travelers along with them are keenly interested in rebooting travel as safely as possible, and starting with one route could be just the crawl then walk approach that creates a model for future travel between the US, UK and Europe once again…

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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  1. an administration keen on states rights

    Our current administration is ummm…. flexible about such things, depending on whether there is benefit to be personally or politically derived by fervently backing a hyper strong national government or ardently championing states rights. A lack of ideology provides a lot of room to maneuver. In this particular case, Trump hates New York so this is unlikely to happen.

  2. This is a totally unrealistic idea. Trump would never allow other countries to treat people from New York different than people from Wyoming. Lots of people who aren’t Trump fans would have problems with the idea as well. Not even a potential Biden administration would be likely to allow this.

    Furthermore, Trump has no political incentive to allow visitors from the UK or EU into the US anytime soon. If anything, he has reasons NOT to – his supporters aren’t as likely to want to travel internationally, and to the extent that they’re thinking about this, they won’t be enthusiastic about foreign visitors coming to the US.

    And then you have the legal challenges that you alluded to.

  3. Why would we in the US want to do this with the UK? You guys have 657 deaths per million while the US is currently at 388 and dropping. Our testing is way ahead of anyone in Europe. Why would we trust the UK to not make our death rate go up?

    1. You may be the first and only person who thinks the present pandemic in the UK is worse than that of the United States currently.

    2. “Our testing is way ahead of anyone in Europe” – Have you got any sources of information to prove this? Just because the US may or may not be testing more or less than anyone else what does that prove, that the US is good at testing?

      The current figures show the US, in total, has 17,714 cases per 1 million people, whereas the UK has 4,950 cases per 1 million people. Does that mean the US is more than 3 times worse than the UK?

  4. @Willy…. An interesting mathematical statement…. “the US is currently at 388 per million and dropping”

    Would be fascinated to know how a death rate can drop?

  5. Not just New York, but some other states have also handled things pretty well and are being let down by actions of states that opened up too soon. Illinois and Massachusetts are good examples where things could have been horrific all worse than they were.
    Testing in both directions and get things opened up for the good of everyone!!

  6. Good old “State’s Rights.” One man’s state’s rights is another man’s constitutional violation and visa versa.

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