Major airlines have asked for a joint coronavirus testing programme, so transatlantic travel may resume.

Bosses at International Airlines Group (IAG) – the owner of British Airways – Lufthansa, American Airlines and United Airlines have signed a letter to US and European Union leaders.

Most travel between Europe and the US is banned at the moment because of the coronavirus crisis, and airlines are fighting to survive amid a drastic drop in passengers.

In a letter sent on Tuesday to US and European governments, airline chief executives called for a US-EU testing programme for transatlantic flights.

“Given the unquestioned importance of transatlantic air travel to the global economy as well as to the economic recovery of our businesses, we believe it is critical to find a way to re-open air services between the US and Europe,” the letter said.

It was sent to US vice president Mike Pence and Ylva Johansson, the European commissioner for home affairs.

“We recognise that testing presents a number of challenges, however we believe that a pilot testing programme for the transatlantic market could be an excellent opportunity for government and industry to work together,” the letter added.

The EU does not currently allow visits from US residents, although it has relaxed rules for non-essential travel from 15 countries with lower coronavirus infection rates.

The UK requires people arriving from the US to spend 14 days in self-imposed quarantine, while the US restricts travel by most passengers coming for Europe.

China also wants passengers of inbound flights to provide negative Covid-19 test results before boarding, reports the BBC.

The Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) made the announcement on Tuesday as the government looks to further reduce the risk of imported coronavirus cases.