So what, exactly, are these ‘air bridges’ that we’ve heard so much about?
What is an “air bridge”?
We have heard about travel “bubbles” – agreements between a closed bloc of countries, such as the Baltics, or Australia and New Zealand, and we have heard about travel “corridors” – overland routes into certain countries, like Croatia, through border agreements. But what is an “air bridge”?
It seems like an air bridge will effectively mean a bilateral travel link between the UK and another country, allowing quarantine immunity. The agreement would, we can only assume, by necessity involve a lifting of the FCO travel advisory for that destination.
The government has spoken about air bridges on a number of occasions, and is said to be in ongoing negotiations with the EU and individual countries.
When will the air bridges be introduced?
We do not know. The 14-day quarantine was introduced on June 8, and a number of airlines and holiday companies have been looking at June or July as a date for when operations could resume.
The Government has said it will review the quarantine policy every three weeks, with June 29 the first likely opportunity to introduce bilateral agreements. However, some industry insiders are hopeful that the first air bridge announcement could come sooner.
With which countries could we form an air bridge agreement?
One early air bridge could be with the Canary Islands. The Canary Islands have been selected for a pilot scheme in collaboration with the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), which will involve visitors downloading a health passport – called the Hi+ Card – and a track-and-trace app on arrival. A Canary Islands tourism chief told the Telegraph that the Canaries are working hard to reopen this summer, and that they hope to open up to the UK as soon as possible. Due to the low infection rate on the Canaries, it could be a prime candidate for an air bridge.
Another is Portugal. British holidaymakers visiting Portugal will be “most welcome” this summer, according to the country’s foreign minister.
Speaking to the BBC last week, Augusto Santos Silva said he was hopeful an ‘air bridge’ between the UK and Portugal could be agreed by the end of June.
Mr Santos Silva said a travel quarantine was “an enemy of tourism,” but stressed that he respected the UK government’s decision to enforce one from Monday June 8.