NEW YORK (Reuters) – British Airways, Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic said on Monday they will allow only passengers who test negative for the coronavirus to fly to New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport.
The decisions follow a request from New York Governor Andrew Cuomo that the airlines voluntarily agree to screen passengers on flights to Kennedy airport after the emergence of a highly infectious new coronavirus strain in Britain.
Dozens of countries, though not the United States, closed their borders to Britain on Monday, causing travel chaos.
Cuomo, who shares oversight of the airport through state agency the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, has said the U.S. government should also stop flights from Britain, though he acknowledged that may come too late to prevent the spread of the new strain.
“I believe intuitively it’s already here,” he said, “because if it’s been flying around the world, it’s been here.”
The White House coronavirus task force met on Monday to discuss the possibility of temporarily halting inbound passenger flights from the United Kingdom, but has not announced any decision.
British Airways, Delta and Virgin are expected to begin the screenings this week.
U.S. airlines have already drastically scaled back flying to the United Kingdom, as well as the rest of Europe: American Airlines, for example, currently operates just one U.S. daily flight to London out of Dallas.
United Airlines, which has issued a travel waiver for U.S. flights to Heathrow between Dec. 21, 2020, and Jan. 17, is operating four daily flights to London in December but said earlier this month it would cut those in half beginning in January. Last winter it operated 20 daily flights to the UK.
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen in New York, David Shepardson in Washington and Tracy Rucinski in Chicago; Writing by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Matthew Lewis)