Airbus head calls for easing of COVID-19 travel restrictions

LaToya Harding
·3-min read
Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury attends Airbus's annual press conference on Full-Year 2019 results in Blagnac near Toulouse, France, February 13, 2020.  REUTERS/Regis Duvignau
Guillaume Faury, chief executive of Airbus, has called for COVID-19 travel restrictions to be eased. Photo: REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

Guillaume Faury, chief executive of Airbus (AIR.PA), has called for COVID-19 travel restrictions to be eased as businesses ramp up pressure on governments to reopen economies as the vaccine rollout programme continues across Europe.

It came as he also urged for a “ceasefire” in a transatlantic trade war over aircraft subsidies, saying that tariffs on planes had added to the damage caused by the health crisis.

In a radio interview on Saturday, Faury said: “We are extremely frustrated by the barriers that restrict personal movement and it is almost impossible today to travel in Europe by plane, even domestically.

“The number one priority for countries in general is to reopen frontiers and allow people to travel on the basis of tests and then eventually vaccinations.”

From 2019, Washington slapped Airbus with import duties of 15% on its jets and the EU in return responded with a matching tariff on Boeing (BA) jet the following year.

“This dispute, which is now an old dispute, has put us in a lose-lose situation,” Faury said. “We have ended up in a situation where wisdom would normally dictate that we have a ceasefire and resolve this conflict.”

On Thursday Brazil similarly called for a peace deal after a battle with Canada over subsidies for smaller regional jets.

In Britain, the UK travel industry is also calling on the government to collaborate on a roadmap to recovery and provide tailored financial support.

Ahead of the proposed roadmap out of national lockdown, due to be announced by Boris Johnson on Monday 22 February, major players in travel have written an open letter to the government, published on Saturday morning. 

READ MORE: 'On its knees' travel sector demands UK government plan for summer holidays

Organised by travel lobby group, the Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) in partnership with the Save Future Travel Coalition, it is co-signed by firms such as TUI (TUI.L), easyJet (EZJ.L) holidays and Airlines UK and follows calls from groups last week to relax restrictions ahead of the usually busy summer period.

The letter says: "There has been little opportunity to recover or generate income since the virus first affected the sector 12 months ago, with government policies effectively shutting down international travel for most of the past year."

"We understand that the government has taken the steps it feels necessary to prevent the spread of coronavirus and the introduction of new variants into the UK, and we have supported the government in these measures. Public health must come first."

Pressure is mounting, following calls last week from trade body Seasonal Business in Travel (SBiT), which warned the sector is "on its knees" financially. It also called for more tailored financial support until conditions improve.

Data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) published on Monday underlines the crisis facing the travel industry, showing that turnover for the travel and tourism sector stood at 51.5% of 2019 levels in November, and at 20.8% of previous year's trade for accommodation companies and travel agents.

It also showed that hotel room occupancy slid from September to November as government restrictions were tightened again, sinking to just 21% in worst-affected London.

Alongside this, international air passenger traffic in and out of the UK in November dropped to 9% of February levels.

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