The trial of a new Covid-safe flight from New York/Newark to London Heathrow, which includes a free rapid-results testing programme for all crew and passengers before they fly, has the potential to be good news for the entire aviation sector. It is not only scheduled airlines watching the newly publicised scheme by United Airlines closely, but also the air charter industry.
The flight will run three times a week and United says everyone on board over the age of two will be tested free of charge using new rapid-testing technology, guaranteeing that all those who fly have tested negative for SARS-CoV-2 prior to departure.
Of course, the air charter industry has in some instances already been testing passengers prior to flights to ensure the safety of its passengers. However, this hasn’t stopped the need for passengers quarantining upon arrival unless they are considered key workers. This new initiative, initially due to run for one month, could be a real breakthrough for the aviation industry and many others connected to it.
The reality is we’ve all been waiting for a solution to be able to start travelling again, and the knock-on effect of this scheme, should it prove successful, is cause for optimism. It could be a huge boost for the leisure and business traveller, and of course for the global economy too.
We could see, for instance, the resumption of flights in the conference and events sectors, which have been so badly hit by the pandemic. Car launches, incentive trips and business meetings have all been put on hold over the last six months, but a successful pilot scheme could see companies looking to charter flights once again for their organisations and executives.
In the current climate it is normal for people to be cautious about looking ahead to a time when the virus doesn’t dominate our lives and to avoid being overly optimistic when good news finally arrives.
But this latest project, together of course with rapid progress in finding a vaccine, is still incredibly positive news for travel and for the aviation industry. Not only would free rapid testing give peace of mind to travellers who fly, but also for the airlines and crew members on board. More travel corridors could open up as a result of a successful trial, and that’s what we are all looking for as we aim to get the world moving again as soon as possible.
People are still flying during the current restrictions; of course the skies are not empty, and global business never really stops. But many passengers, and many businesses, are looking forward to a time when flying feels more normal and restrictions are lifted.
The truth is that countries all over the world are waiting for a solution to get aviation moving again, so if this pilot scheme is successful, it could mean that others will follow suit very quickly – and could even allow services to open up in time for Christmas and winter travel.
The air charter industry, like everyone else, will be keeping a very close eye on how the initiative progresses.
About the author
Catriona Taylor is passenger director at global air charter specialist, Chapman Freeborn, and has more than 16 years of experience in the industry.