(ANTIGUA OBSERVER) - Airlines bringing holidaymakers back to Antigua and Barbuda could be seen in our skies again within weeks. The \u201ctentative\u201d estimate of early to mid-June for the return of international air carriers was given by government chiefs who said there was \u201cmuch hope\u201d tourists from \u201cseveral source markets\u201d would soon be back enjoying the twin island nation\u2019s beaches. If the timeframe pans out, it will deliver a crucial shot in the arm to the economy, allowing numerous local businesses to eke out some revenue before the peak hurricane season swings into gear. The resumption of flights from overseas is contingent upon border restrictions stipulated by various governments. But major carriers from Antigua and Barbuda\u2019s two biggest source markets are taking bookings from as soon as six weeks from now. The earliest date a flight via American Airlines from New York\u2019s JFK Airport can be booked is June 2. And British Airways is accepting bookings from London Gatwick from June 5. The US accounts for the bulk of visitors to the country; almost 70,000 travelled to Antigua from US destinations including New York and Miami last year. The UK represented just under 40,000 of the 52,000 holidaymakers who came from Europe. Minutes from a Cabinet meeting on Wednesday, sent to media, revealed the topic had come under discussion. Chief of Staff in the Prime Minister\u2019s Office, Lionel Hurst, told Observer the Ministry of Tourism had been in talks with airline representatives. \u201cThey say early to mid-June is when they are likely to start flying,\u201d he said. The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins on June 1 but government is optimistic that travellers who have spent weeks cooped-up amid Covid-19 restrictions will jump at the chance of a vacation. \u201cWe suspect we will see lots of people coming; there\u2019s a pent-up demand,\u201d Hurst continued. \u201cMany people who had planned holidays to try to escape some of the pressure being exerted as a result of Covid-19 will want to come to the Caribbean.\u201d Airports on both ends of the journey will have strict measures in place to ensure passengers are screened for the coronavirus, Hurst said. \u201cThey will be running tests on each and every passenger before they leave and, when they arrive here, we will do the same,\u201d he explained. Commercial flights into Antigua were stopped last month and anyone arriving into the country \u2013 such as students returning from overseas \u2013 must be quarantined for 14 days. Hurst said quarantine regulations would be reviewed closer to the time of commercial flights\u2019 return. Since the outbreak of the pandemic late last year, governments across the globe have had the thorny task of balancing the economic impact of lockdowns against the need to protect their populations against the potentially deadly virus \u2013 and avoid a second wave. \u201cWhen airlines don\u2019t fly and cruise ships don\u2019t arrive, we are in terrible straits; tourism is the engine of our economy,\u201d Hurst conceded. But he added, \u201cPeople think this thing is going to go on forever, but it can\u2019t and it won\u2019t.\u201d That stance would appear to be at odds with the narrative from some countries. German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned yesterday that the virus crisis was \u201cstill just beginning\u201d. \u201cWe\u2019ll have to live with this virus for a long time,\u201d she told parliament ahead of an EU summit, held via video link. How airlines which have been grounded for several weeks have fared will be another factor. Virgin Atlantic \u2013 a long-term visitor to Antigua \u2013 reported a $534 million loss for the first quarter of 2020. Its founder, Richard Branson, has warned that without financial help the carrier may collapse. Earlier this week, he asked the British government for more than $600 million in state aid in the form of loans \u2013 even offering his private isle in the British Virgin Islands as security. The latest travel advice from Britain\u2019s Foreign and Commonwealth Office still advises British nationals against all but essential international travel. It is not yet clear when this is likely to be amended. Lindsy Thompson, Antigua\u2019s resident British Commissioner, told Observer, \u201cThe British High Commission is in regular contact with airlines, including BA and Virgin which are currently scheduled to resume their schedules to Antigua in early June, but that may be subject to change given the unprecedented nature of Covid-19. \u201cPassengers should contact their airline, travel agent, or tour operator for the latest on flight availability,\u201d she added.