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US president elect Joe Biden could scrap New York-London air corridor in favour of Dublin link

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 27/11/2020 Jonathan Prynn
Joe Biden wearing a suit and tie talking on a cell phone © Provided by Evening Standard

London aviation chiefs are in a race against time to secure an air corridor to New York amid growing fears that the incoming Biden team will favour Dublin.

Hopes that negotiations with the Trump administration will lead to the reopening of travel between Heathrow and JFK — the so-called Project Nylon — before the presidential handover on January 20 are rapidly fading, according to aviation sources. 

New York to London is the busiest intercontinental route  with huge importance for the financial services sector of the City and other service industries based in the capital.

But it has been effectively closed since the March 14 when Mr Trump banned Britons from flying to America except in exceptional circumstances.  

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It had been hoped that a pilot scheme could have been in place in time for Thanksgiving , but the coronavirus has slowed the progress of official talks.

One source told the Standard: “We understand that president-elect Joe Biden’s team might look to prioritise a travel corridor to Dublin ahead of us. The feeling is that Biden has a historical relationship with Ireland and that will take precedence.”

Another said: “It’s difficult to see a London corridor up and running until well after the inauguration.”

Gallery: Coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak around the world (Photo Services)

The president-elect has made no secret of the personal importance of his family roots in County Mayo and County Lough.

Fears that London might miss out on sealing a US air corridor had already been raised by comments from the boss of Delta Airlines who said it would be easier to relaunch transatlantic flights to “just about any other” European capital.

Chief executive Ed Bastian told the Financial Times in an interview: “New York-London is complicated. I think you will find on the continent several countries that are more open.”

That was before Transport Secretary Grant Shapps announced that the quarantine period for visitors arriving in the UK will be reduced from 14 days to five days with a negative test result from December 15. However, Ireland beat the UK by more than a fortnight by announcing a similar relaxation to come into force on Sunday.

Martin Ferguson, a director of American Express Global Business Travel, said: “As we leave the EU, the UK’s need to have established trade links and an air corridor between London and New York seems to be greater than any other country. If the Government doesn’t move quickly to engage with our partners in Washington, the UK could fall down the pecking order behind its European neighbours. This would not be a good look post-Brexit.”

The US department of transportation said: “The Department stands ready to support the safe resumption of international flights to and from the US. Conversations are ongoing between the federal government, international partners, and industry stakeholders on these matters.”

Stay alert to stop coronavirus spreading - here is the latest government guidance. If you think you have the virus, don't go to the GP or hospital, stay indoors and get advice online. Only call NHS 111 if you cannot cope with your symptoms at home; your condition gets worse; or your symptoms do not get better after seven days. In parts of Wales where 111 isn't available, call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47. In Scotland anyone with symptoms is advised to self-isolate for seven days. In Northern Ireland, call your GP.

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