The World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) has called on the US to speed up its approval of the Astra Zeneca vaccine to restore transatlantic travel.

The US’ Centre for Disease Control (CDC) approved the Pfizer vaccine this week, but does not yet recognise Astra Zeneca as an approved Covid-19 vaccine. The WTTC warns that the current approval process could take months, and calls on the federal government to include all WHO and FDA approved vaccines.

The WTTC claims that America “will effectively remain off-limits” to travellers who are double vaccinated with Astra Zeneca – it has been administered across 176 countries and territories.

It adds that this will “continue to seriously depress consumer demand and prevent any meaningful revival of transatlantic travel from the UK to the US”.

The WTTC cites data analytics expert Cirium as reporting that UK-US flights scheduled for the last week of August fell by 73 per cent in comparison to the same period in 2019. Total seats available over this period have dropped from a high ofr 287,000 in 2019 to 78,000 in 2021.

New York has already included Astra Zeneca in a list of vaccines which would be accepted as proof of vaccination to enter many indoor venues, with other US states expected to follow.

Virginia Messina, Senior Vice President of the WTTC, said:

“It’s crucial the US authorities step forward to formally approve the Astra Zeneca vaccine as a matter of urgency to enable cross-border mobility and the return of transatlantic travel between the UK and US.

“Unless it gives it the green light, then the US will effectively remain closed to the vast majority of UK visitors and the many millions around the world who are double-jabbed with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

“This will leave airlines, cruise lines, tour operators, hotels and the entire Travel & Tourism infrastructure, which depends upon transatlantic travel, in significant trouble for the foreseeable future.

“Neither the US nor the UK economy can afford this ‘vaccine vacuum’ to continue a day longer, and every day which passes, and transatlantic travel remains off limits, it leaves the Travel & Tourism sector sinking deeper into the red.” 

Jetblue recently launched transatlantic flights from New York to London, though Aer Lingus announced yesterday that it has again delayed its services from Manchester to the US due to the ongoing restrictions.

The WTTC recently said that the UK government should pay for PCR tests for double vaccinated citizens, who are deterred from travelling due to the expense of the testing regime.

WTTC: UK government should pay for PCR tests