U.S. Drops Travel Ban As Covid Cases Surge Across Europe

The United States has reopened its air and land borders to foreign travelers who have been fully vaccinated. This follows 20 months of travel restrictions which separated families, damaged diplomatic relations, and crippled tourism.

As the U.S. opened its borders to U.K visitors Monday, performers entertained passengers at London Heathrow Airport. PA Images via Getty Images

The Key Facts

The United States lifted travel restrictions from many countries, including Canada, the United Kingdom and most of Europe. United Airlines stated that it expects over 30,000 passengers to fly into America Monday. This is roughly half the number of passengers it carried the previous week. Delta Air Lines' chief executive Ed Bastian advised travelers to expect long lines when they arrive in the U.S. He said that many of the airline's Monday flights are already sold out and that many more planes will be available in the coming weeks. Delta claimed that it has experienced a 450% rise in bookings from travelers outside the U.S. after the reopening. The experience of Delta reflects a wider interest in international travel around the globe. Kayak, a travel site, reported that searches for international travel to the U.S. rose nearly 50% on Saturday after the announcement. Lufthansa, a German carrier, said that its U.S. bookings had increased by 50% and even quadrupled on some routes. According to Cirium, a travel data and analytics company, inbound flights from the U.K. will increase 21% in November, even though bookings are still lower than pre-pandemic levels.

Important Quote

Bastian, chief executive of Delta Airlines, said that travelers should expect long lines when they arrive in the U.S. You can be sure that there will be lines.

What to Watch

Sherry Stein is the head of technology for Americas at SITA, an air transport telecommunications company. According to the International International Air Transport Association, (IATA), which is a trade association representing the world's airlines, travelers can expect to wait as long as eight hours. This number is based upon the expected number of passengers and the longer processing time.

Surprising Fact

Adult visitors must be fully vaccinated, and have a negative Covid-19 screening (except when crossing over by land). The United States has given airlines the responsibility of verifying travelers' vaccination status, unlike many other countries. Lacking a consistent, countrywide approach to proof-of-vaccination, each airline has been left to figure out its own way to check passengers.

Important Background

Tourism has been the most affected by the pandemic. Many travel companies, airlines, and hospitality businesses were closed down under Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. Globally, governments spent billions of dollars bailing out airlines and aligned sectors. The United Nations estimates that the global crash in international tourism could cost the economy $4 trillion by 2020 and 2021. This is far worse than the predictions made one year ago. Travel restrictions imposed by the United States have been in place for longer periods than those in wealthy countries. They have also caused diplomatic tensions with countries that are frustrated by their inability to open borders in return. As Covid-19 cases continue to rise across Europe, the WHO has warned that the continent is now "once more, at the epicenter" of the pandemic. According to the WHO, Europe now leads the world in terms both of deaths and cases. Many countries, including Germany are experiencing record highs while trying to contain pandemics.

Virgin Atlantic cabin crew at London Heathrow Airport, as the U.S. opens its borders for international travel. PA Images via Getty Images

On November 7, 2017, cars waited in line to cross the border at San Ysidro, Mexico-United States border. AFP via Getty Images

An enviable line of Canadian cars crosses the bridge connecting Niagara Falls, Ontario, and Niagara Falls in New York. This was just before midnight on November 7. AFP via Getty Images

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Experts warn that airport wait times can be up to 8 hours for international travel.

U.S. Opens Hands to British Airways, a $1 Billion Lifeline (Bloomberg).

The Global Economy Could Be Hit by a Pandemic Inflation (Forbes).

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