Airline executives cast doubt with borders still closed

A Delta Air Lines Airbus A330neo or A330-900 aircraft with neo engine option of the European plane manufacturer, as seen on final approach for landing at Amsterdam Schiphol AMS EHAM International airport after a transatlantic long haul flight.

Nicolas Economou | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Hoping to take a European vacation this summer? You may be out of luck.

Borders in much of Europe have been closed to most U.S. citizens and vice versa for more than a year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Airline executives on Thursday said they didn’t expect them to open in time for the peak summer season.

Travel industry leaders have pressed the Biden administration for a plan to reopen borders, including standards for health documentation such as proof of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said on a quarterly call that the company is focused on lifting restrictions that have hindered travel between the U.S. and U.K. but that other popular tourist destinations may take longer.

The White House didn’t immediately comment.

Britain this week eased its lockdown restrictions, allowing pubs, hairdressers and retail shops to reopen. France and Italy, on the other hand, reinstated temporary lockdowns last month to curb new Covid-19 infections, and vaccine distribution has been slow throughout Europe.

“When you think about other parts of Europe, there may be some occasional markets open this summer based on southern Mediterranean leisure traffic that people will be interested in,” Bastian said on the call. “But I don’t think you’re going to see continental Europe opened in any meaningful way till later in the year. We’ll probably unfortunately miss much of the summer for most of continental Europe.”

Delta and rivals such as American Airlines and United Airlines have said domestic travel has rebounded sharply from the depths of the pandemic, but international travel, still facing a web of entry restrictions and a lag in vaccinations, remains weak.

Delta on Thursday said its domestic passenger revenue dropped 66% to $2.3 billion in the first quarter compared with the same period of 2019, but trans-Atlantic revenue was 87% less at $142 million while trans-Pacific was off 89% at $62 million.

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