From today the US has reopened its international border for non-essential travellers, after 20 months of restrictions. However, the majority of these international travellers will need to be fully vaccinated with some states imposing local limits.
Welcoming International Travellers from 33 Countries
The United States opened its international borders for those non-US citizens who have been in 33 countries, including Brazil, China, India, Iran, Ireland, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the 26 Schengen countries in Europe, within 14 days prior to departure. These 33 countries accounted for over 50% of all international travellers to the United States in 2019.
US airlines are expecting a massive boost in incoming international visitors. They have increased flight frequencies to Europe and other destinations that were impacted by the restrictions. Airlines have seen a massive surge in international point-of-sale bookings, compared to the last few weeks. Multiple airlines held special events, with executives meeting some of the first flights on Monday.
Vaccination is Key
The majority of the international visitors need to be fully vaccinated with a vaccine approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) along with those given Emergency Use Listing (EUL) by the WHO. Children under 18 are exempt from the vaccination requirement when travelling with vaccinated adults.
Travellers should present digital or paper documentation of vaccination. Respective airlines will check the documentation. COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech, AstraZeneca, Covishield and Moderna are approved in the United States. Mixed doses of these vaccines will also be accepted if they were taken at least 17 days apart.
Mandatory Negative COVID-19 test
In addition to the proof of vaccination, those air travellers aged two years and older also need a negative COVID-19 test. The test must be done no longer than 72 hours prior to departure.
Unvaccinated US citizens, and some international travellers exempted from the vaccination requirement, will need a negative COVID-19 test taken 24 hours prior to departure. Those who have recovered from COVID-19 in the last 90 days need to submit a positive test result in addition to a signed letter from the healthcare provider.
Local Restrictions still in place
Although vaccinated international travellers are permitted to visit the United States, some states may still impose local restrictions. Some of the states, including Hawaii, Illinois, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon and Washington, still have a mask mandate.
Similarly, some limitations are still in place in some of the states, major cities and indoor public areas.
Top 5 Airlines
Airlines have increased flight frequencies due to a massive boost in demand. Around 1,550 weekly flights are scheduled between the US and Europe. Here are the top five airlines with the most flights this week.
United Airlines: 236 Flights
British Airways: 183 Flights
Delta Air Lines: 165 Flights
Lufthansa: 138 Flights
American Airlines: 119 Flights
Top 5 Routes
Unsurprisingly, New York JFK to London Heathrow is at the top of the list. Three of the remaining top five routes either depart or land at JFK or Heathrow. Here are the top five routes this week.
New York JFK-London Heathrow: 87 Flights
New York JFK-Paris CDG: 44 Flights
Los Angeles-Heathrow: 38 Flights
Atlanta-Paris CDG: 28 Flights
Boston-Heathrow: 28 Flights
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic Celebrated with a historic twin take-off
British Airways and Virgin Atlantic celebrated the reopening of the US border with a remarkable double departure from Heathrow Airport. Both airlines put aside their historic rivalries to celebrate the occasion, operating a historic twin take-off from London Heathrow.
Both British Airways flight BA1 and Virgin Atlantic flight VS3 simultaneously departed Heathrow bound to New York JFK at around 08:30 to celebrate the occasion. British Airways used its most reputable flight number for only one day to celebrate the occasion. Airbus A350-1000s were operated for both flights.
Commenting on the reopening of the US border for international travellers, Sean Doyle, British Airways Chairman and CEO, said:
"After more than 600 days of separation, today is our moment to celebrate the UK-US reopening. We’re setting aside rivalry and, for the first time, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic aircraft will be seen taking-off together to mark the vital importance of the transatlantic corridor. Transatlantic connectivity is vital for the UK’s economic recovery."
Virgin Atlantic's Chief Executive Shai Weiss also noted that it's time for celebration and not rivalry saying:
“Today is a time for celebration, not rivalry. Together with British Airways we are delighted to mark today’s important milestone, which finally allows consumers and businesses to book travel with confidence."
"The US has been our heartland for more than 37 years and we are simply not Virgin without the Atlantic. We’ve been steadily ramping up flying to destinations including Boston, New York, Orlando, Los Angeles and San Francisco and we can’t wait to fly our customers safely to their favourite US cities to reconnect with loved ones and colleagues."
Delta Air Lines Chief Executive Ed Bastian earlier warned travellers to be prepared for long lines initially. Bastian said: "It's going to be a bit sloppy at first. I can assure you there will be lines, unfortunately. We'll get it sorted out".
Cover Image: James Oates/Twitter
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