Airport COVID testing hubs and new travel corridors are part of a plan to revive U.S.-Europe air travel

August 19, 2020, 1:16 PM UTC

Germany’s main aviation industry group has proposed the creation of limited air-travel corridors between major U.S. and European hubs, in a bid to crack open the nearly shuttered market for trans-Atlantic flight.

The pilot project would link U.S. airports in Chicago, Boston, Los Angeles and New York City-adjacent Newark, N.J., with Frankfurt and Munich in Germany, along with other major European intercontinental hubs, executives at BDL, which represents Germany’s airports and airlines, said in an online press event Wednesday.

It would rely on COVID-19 testing, already in place in Boston and the German airports, which could quickly be installed elsewhere, according to the BDL executives, Matthias von Randow and Peter Gerber. Passengers willing to travel would have to produce a negative test for COVID-19 no older than 48 hours.

A coordinated set of measures to reopen trans-Atlantic flight would be a boon to major network carriers such as Deutsche Lufthansa AG, Air France-KLM and British Airways, as well as their U.S. countereparts, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines Group and United Airlines Holdings. All rely on lucrative North Atlantic routes for profit. The International Air Transport Association has warned that long-distance flying will take years to return to 2019 levels and has urged countries to unify travel rules to speed the comeback.

Constantly changing restrictions have held back the aviation recovery in Europe, while state-by-state outbreaks have limited U.S. domestic travel.

Europe’s busiest airport hub, London Heathrow, is working on a testing mechanism and industry executives are lobbying the British government to replace quarantines with virus tests as a means of screening arriving travelers from high-risk countries.

It wasn’t clear whether Heathrow or the other airports were involved with the German plan. The London hub had no immediate comment. The BDL executives said their plan had been proposed to aviation authorities in Europe and the U.S., and that they were awaiting feedback.

Air travel around the world has been devastated by the fallout from the pandemic, which raised health concerns over flying on the part of consumers and authorities. The mix of travel warnings, entry restrictions and quarantine regulations brought flights to all but a halt after the virus went global.

More recent flareups and changing restrictions are hampering the restart of travel as they make reliable trip-planning near impossible.

Traffic between Paris airports and North America was down 94% in July, according to hub-operator ADP’s monthly report.