Virgin Atlantic and Delta returned to Terminal 3 yesterday, and issued a call to the UK government to speed up the opening of travel by adding more countries to the green list.
Speaking at the reopening of the Terminal 3 Virgin Atlantic Clubhouse, Corneel Koster, Virgin’s Chief Customer and Operating Officer said that the green list was “ridiculously restrictive.”
“Many more countries should be on the green list including the US and big parts of Europe.” Koster said. “We need to foster and build the confidence of the leisure traveller, the business traveller and those who want to visit friends and relatives. How can we build confidence like this with these constant changes? We need to give people more of a horizon”
Describing the UK government’s response as “disappointing” Koster said,
“This continuous constant flip flopping over the green list, a ridiculously restricted green list, is not good enough. If you follow the data, then the US should open, so should large parts of Europe, and so should other parts of the world. We need to be able to contribute the UK with the world. And people need a bit of confidence so they can plan their travel.”
Travel to the US from most of Europe including the Schengen area is currently severely affected as a result of restrictions from the US government, despite the EU dropping its restrictions for double-vaccinated travellers.
Corneel Koster said that while movement “…has to come from both sides, it doesn’t matter who goes first.”
“We applaud the fact that a huge part of Europe has said it is welcoming US travellers provided they are double vaccinated and in some cases with testing. So Europe has effectively opened to the US and the UK has been left behind.”
Europe is still lobbying the US government. Angela Merkel was in Washington DC yesterday and brought up the topic with President Biden. You can hear a question from a reporter from Der Tagesspiegel at the press conference below, and Biden’s response of “looking into the matter and having a response in several days”.
Great question from Der Tagesspiegel reporter to Biden about why does the U.S. still have a coronavirus-related travel ban from Germany and other E.U. states but not from Turkey "where the number of new cases are seven times as high."
— Curtis Houck (@CurtisHouck) July 15, 2021
Koster said, “It’s early days for Europe, but we think it is helpful pressure on the US. We call on the UK government to put the US on the ‘green’ list in the same way. The UK government should follow its own science, should be more transparent about the data and should look at the high levels of vaccination on both sides of the government. But we are also calling, with our partners, to appeal to the Biden administration to repeal 212F and allow our passengers into the US.”
Koster said that the steps that the UK government has announced to allow double vaccinated passengers to travel to amber without self isolation was a positive step, but questioned why is only applied to “just NHS vaccinated customers.”
“Every day we are missing out on £23 million to the UK economy that we could have gathered if we had opened the transatlantic corridor. Aviation contributes to four and a half per cent of the UK’s GDP. We have to reconnect the UK to the rest of the world to keep our economy rebounding and we know we can do it safely. So the present situation is very frustrating.
Virgin, Delta and British Airways have launched trials to show that they can “check for vaccine credentials from any market from any country, any nationality and with that customers should be excluded from self-isolation, should not be tested on any green countries and should be able to travel smoothly and safely.”
Speaking about why it the right time to reopen Terminal 3, despite the restrictions, Koster said,
“We know that things are moving in the right direction. It’s only a matter of time before travel opens further. We are seeing our own outlook strengthen every week and T2 was getting busy. We have had a very good running conversation with London Heathrow as to when Terminal 3 would need to reopen with some very clear criteria. The Terminal was warmed up, ready to go, and those criteria were starting to trigger and getting ahead of it was important so we are pleased about the timing. In fact, the final decision was only made about 10 days ago and the preparation was done very well by both our team and by Heathrow.”
The terminal had been closed for 450 days, and was quiet yesterday for the first day of opening.
“At the moment Virgin has 11 passengers flights departing and several cargo flights daily. And we have only 1,300 customers booked on those 11 flights, so it’s not a great load factor, but it’s a good start and we are starting to see load factors increase.”
Virgin has brought forward the resumption of selected flights to the Caribbean and operating its largest A350 aircraft on services to Barbados, following the addition of Antigua, Barbados and Grenada to the government’s green list.
As a result Virgin is increasing capacity by almost 300 per cent to the Caribbean, including bringing forward the relaunch of twice weekly flights from Heathrow to Grenada to July 16.
Service to Antigua has increased to three flights per week and Virgin’s Heathrow-Barbados route will rise to daily from July 25. In addition the airline is rostering its largest A350 aircraft onto five weekly flights to Barbados from the beginning of August, offering 335 seats per flight, including the carrier’s latest Upper Class suite.
Finally Virgin will resume flights between Manchester and Barbados from August 7, with a thrice weekly service operated by its B787 aircraft. For business routes, Virgin is flying 11 times weekly on New York, with Delta adding additional frequencies as well as daily to its hub in Atlanta.
Finally, Koster confirmed that the JFK Clubhouse would reopen on Monday, and also from Monday the bars and social spaces both in the lounges and onboard would reopen. He also pointed out a new addition to the Clubhouse – three Peloton bikes, and said that already that morning five passengers has used them before their flights.