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Airline executives doubt the borders are still closed

An Airbus A330neo or A330-900 from Delta Air Lines with Neo engine option from the European aircraft manufacturer, as seen on the final approach at Amsterdam Schiphol AMS EHAM after a long-haul transatlantic flight.

Nicolas Economou | NurPhoto | Getty Images

Are you hoping to have a European vacation this summer? You may be out of luck.

In much of Europe, the borders for most US citizens have been closed for more than a year because of the coronavirus pandemic, and vice versa. Airline executives said Thursday they didn’t expect it to open in time for midsummer time.

Travel industry leaders have urged the Biden government on a plan to reopen the borders, including standards for health documentation such as evidence of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Ed Bastian, Delta Air Lines CEO, said on a quarterly call that the company is focused on lifting restrictions that have hampered travel between the US and the UK but other popular destinations may take longer.

The White House did not respond immediately.

The UK eased its lockdown restrictions this week, allowing pubs, hairdressers and retail stores to reopen. France and Italy reintroduced temporary bans last month to contain new Covid-19 infections, and vaccine distribution across Europe has been slow.

“When you think of other parts of Europe, there may be occasional markets opening this summer based on leisure traffic in the southern Mediterranean that people will be interested in,” Bastian said on the conference call. “But I don’t think continental Europe will open in any meaningful way until later in the year. We’re likely to miss out on much of the summer for most of continental Europe, unfortunately.”

Delta and competitors like American Airlines and United Airlines have stated that domestic travel has bounced back strongly from the depths of the pandemic, but international travel, which is still facing a web of entry restrictions and a delay in vaccinations, remains weak.

Delta announced Thursday that domestic passenger revenue in the first quarter was 66% lower than the same period in 2019 to $ 2.3 billion. However, transatlantic sales were 87% lower at $ 142 million, while trans-Pacific sales were down 89% at $ 62 million.

Naples, Italy versus Naples, Florida

American airlines have geared their once sprawling global networks towards domestic destinations, particularly those that offer outdoor attractions like beaches and mountains. The airlines have expanded tourist hotspots in Florida, Wyoming, and Montana. You’ve also seen a surge in demand for beach destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico.

American Airlines announced on Wednesday, for example, that it would bring its domestic flight schedule for the summer to almost the level of 2019.

Brian Znotins, vice president of network planning for American Airlines, told CNBC that even if the borders open in the coming season, demand for European summer vacation will be hard to generate.

“Usually a European vacation is planned months in advance,” he said. “If people want to go on a getaway this summer today, which many people are, they don’t feel very sure about booking a trip to Rome, so they’re going to make that hotel reservation in Jackson Hole or Honolulu or Cancun.

“You don’t expect demand to show up until the day after a country opens, especially from a leisure perspective,” he said.

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