PHL flights to London could resume thanks to upcoming travel rules

As long as the US ban on European travelers remained in place, prospects were unclear for a full resumption of the pandemic at Philadelphia International Airport. The Biden administration’s new plans to ease those restrictions are a welcome relief, although some questions remain, airport and airline officials said at an industry event on Wednesday.

“We’re still down about 30% when you look at our numbers in 2019,” said PHL CEO Chellie Cameron, “and the main reason is that we haven’t been able to manage the service. transatlantic as we were before the pandemic.

Restrictions that banned visitors from most of Europe began last year under the Trump administration and continued under President Biden, much to the frustration of UK and EU leaders in the travel industry. and families separated by the ban. On Monday, the White House announced it would lift the ban by early November for fully vaccinated travelers, who will also need to show a negative coronavirus test.

Over the next few weeks, the federal government “will further define what will need to happen for this trip to happen,” Cameron said at a roundtable hosted by the British American Business Council of Greater Philadelphia and the BritishAmerican trade group. Business.

The restrictions took a heavy toll on PHL, as it is the gateway airport to Europe for American Airlines, Cameron said.

“We had more service from Philadelphia International Airport to the UK and Europe than any other American Airlines airport in the US, and so when these restrictions were put in place, it really did. affected, ”she said.

American Airlines currently operates a daily round trip to London from PHL, compared to two daily round trips in 2019.

Total passenger traffic in July 2021 was 2.33 million at PHL, or around 74% of the 3.15 million passengers in July 2019.

PHL and London’s Heathrow Airport began jointly advocating earlier this year for the reopening of travel routes.

“The decision we heard on Monday to reopen the connections is absolutely vital and timely and will help grow business between our two great countries,” said Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye.

Yet, he said, there is still work to be done to eliminate testing requirements and to make travel “seamless” for fully vaccinated passengers.

“As we get to that point of mass vaccination, which I think will likely be deep in 2023, I think we’ll see the testing removed, and we’ll start to return to the frictionless journey we’ve been used to,” Holland-Kaye said.

Getting companies to resume business travel is another piece of the puzzle.

Rhett Workman, managing director of American Airlines Europe and Asia-Pacific, based in London, said he attended an in-person conference this week outside of London, for the first time in 18 months . A show of hands said the same was true of “almost everyone in the room … and a good chunk of those who have flown to get there,” he said.

“I think we are ready for the return to business. It’s just a matter of convincing our corporate clients to fly, ”said Workman.

Beginning in March 2020, American suspended flights from Philadelphia to Europe for about a year. The airline has added some of these routes and currently flies from PHL to Amsterdam, Athens, Rome and Dublin, in addition to London.

But American’s recovery out of Philadelphia has largely focused on meeting passenger demand for domestic flights.

“We had to try to meet them where they are and to fly specifically to some of the sun and outdoor destinations,” said Lakshman Amaranayaka, US vice president of operations at the PHL hub.

Erik Evjen, of research firm Tourism Economics, said he did not expect a full travel recovery until 2024.

“It takes a while to come back,” he said, “but we expect a significant jump in 2022, in part because of travel restrictions that continue to loosen. “

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