Welcome news for the industry with a firm date in place now. Let the bookings commence.
The U.S. will reopen transatlantic flights to vaccinated passengers on November 8, according to reports, following 18 months of restrictions that have hit many international carriers, travel companies and businesses hard.
The Biden administration may have announced the end of stringent requirements for European, South African, Brazilian, Chinese, and Indian travelers coming to the U.S., but testing requirements will remain.
Pending further details, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control posted a brief update online about the November 8 reopening, stating that “for purposes of entry into the United States, vaccines accepted will include FDA approved or authorized and WHO Emergency Use Listing vaccines.” Late Friday the CDC said it would accept mixed doses for international travelers.
The announcement follows recent news that fully vaccinated land and ferry travelers from Mexico and Canada will be allowed to cross the border to the country early next month.
Transatlantic travel will have been sorely missed, financially speaking. Many U.S. carriers make most of their profits on the route. “Visitors from the EU and the UK contributed more than $46 billion to the U.S economy in 2019, showing just how critical this move will be to the U.S recovery,” said Julia Simpson, CEO of the World Travel & Tourism Council, in reaction to the reopening date.
Travel agencies and operators lost a valuable summer season by being unable to package up and send tourists across the Atlantic, although many counties will have welcomed U.S. travelers to their shores.
Online travel agent Thomas Cook said that from September 20, web visits to its U.S. pages had more than doubled, and remain consistently higher than before. “Bookings remain low, but in the past three weeks we have sold a third of all the US holidays we’ve sold for the whole of the rest of the year,” said a spokesperson. “New York is the most popular, Florida second but we’ve really seen Las Vegas come back since the earlier announcement.”
Visit Britain’s latest research tracking consumer sentiment also showed strong pent-up demand for the next 12 months.
“The transatlantic trade route is incredibly important for both business and tourism between the UK and the USA, and this great news is a timely and welcome step to further reopening international travel and boosting confidence in traveling,” said Gavin Landry, executive vice president for the Americas at Visit Britain.
“The UK will now be able to strengthen ties with our most important economic partner, the U.S., boosting trade and tourism as well as reuniting friends, families and business colleagues,” said Virgin Atlantic Airways CEO Shai Weiss. The carrier previously reported a 600 percent jump in bookings after U.S. officials unveiled plans to ease restrictions for vaccinated travelers.
Airlines for America (A4A) President and CEO Nicholas Calio said the trade group was “pleased” with the reopening, and said the move would boost airlines and help revive economies on both sides of the Atlantic.
“U.S. airlines have been strong advocates for an individual risk-based system to safely ease travel restrictions, and we recognize that the safe reopening of borders is essential for our nation’s economic recovery,” said Calio.
The U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow applauded the administration “for recognizing the value of international travel to the U.S. economy and the country, and for reconnecting America to the world.”
“U.S. Travel has long called for the safe reopening of our borders, and we welcome the Biden administration’s announcement of a set date to welcome back vaccinated international travelers,” said Dow. “The date is critically important for planning—for airlines, for travel-supported businesses, and for millions of travelers worldwide who will now advance plans to visit the United States once again. Reopening to international visitors will provide a jolt to the economy and accelerate the return of travel-related jobs that were lost due to travel restrictions.”
Calling it “exciting news” from its American partners, the European Travel Commission added that it “hopes to see connectivity coming back to normal in the coming months,” while pointing out that Europe is open for U.S. travelers and looks forward to welcoming them back.
“I am delighted that the US will reopen its borders to the many countries shut out for so many months – and in our most recent pandemic recovery poll, nearly 75 percent of respondents wholeheartedly agree with this particular action,” said Suzanne Neufang, CEO of the Global Business Travel Association. “International travel is critical to promoting global trade and growing worldwide understanding. It’s a much-needed milestone of support for the business travel sector worth $1.4 trillion to the global economy.”
“As we continue to navigate the known and developing challenges of a post-pandemic landscape, we’re excited to welcome the world back to the breadth of possibilities the USA has to offer,” Chris Thompson, Brand USA President and CEO, told Skift.
UPDATED: This story was updated to include comments from Virgin Atlantic, U.S. Travel Association, Visit Britain USA, WTTC, Global Business Travel Association, and Airlines for America. It also clarified that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will accept mixed doses from international travelers.
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Photo credit: The U.S. will reopen transatlantic flights to vaccinated passengers. Pictured is the New York City skyline. Dimitry Anikin / Unsplash