IATA leader says Biden is 'kicking the can down the road'

IATA director general Willie Walsh lashed out U.S President Joe Biden and U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, calling their decision to set up a working group geared toward reopening international travel, “a transparently cowardly political move to kick the can down the road.”

“To put some context around this, many EU states already welcome vaccinated passengers without restrictions, while the U.K. and U.S. (two of the countries with the lowest rates of infection and highest rates of vaccination of any of the major world economies) are unable to make a decision to reopen their borders to each other without appointing a committee to discuss it,” Walsh said.

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The White House and 10 Downing Street announced the plan to create the working group after Biden and Johnson met face-to-face Thursday ahead of the G7 Summit that began Friday on the in England.

The two leaders also used that meeting to sign the New Atlantic Charter, reaffirming the commitment of the U.S. and U.K. to work together toward the advancement of democracy and global peace. The move hearkened back to the signing of the original Atlantic Charter by Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt in August 1941, in the midst of World War II. 

Walsh took aim at that symbolism without mincing words.

“Roosevelt and Churchill, who took real risks to meet in person in an ocean infested with U-boats, would be appalled that their 1941 vision is being associated with such a cautious approach,” he said. 

Walsh called upon the Biden and Johnson to alter course and to use the G7 Summit itself as a stage to announce the reopening of travel between the U.S. and U.K. by July 4.

Travel industry advocates, including CEOs from U.S. and U.K. transatlantic airlines, had called for Biden and Johnson to agree to a quick U.S.-U.K. travel reopening during their Thursday meeting.

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