President Biden could keep the U.S. ban on foreign visitors from Europe and the United Kingdom in full force until Thanksgiving in November according to airline industry insiders who are preparing to slash schedules ahead of the winter season, reports The Telegraph.
Airlines had been preparing for the so-called 212(f) travel restrictions to be lifted early next month with plans to ramp up services across the Atlantic. Virgin Atlantic is hoping to rehire laid-off flight attendants in the hundreds next month based on the belief that the White House was set to ease restrictions.
The industry had been working on convincing the Biden administration to reopen to fully vaccinated foreign visitors in much the same way that both Europe and the UK has already unilaterally done for American tourists.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had been hoping to announce a reciprocal agreement with the U.S. but eventually tired of waiting for the White House while losing ground to Europe so reopened to fully vaccinated Americans even without a deal in the opposite agreement.
White House sources briefed Reuters earlier this month that the administration was actively working on a plan to ease travel restrictions for the fully vaccinated.
But the President has been spooked by a surge in domestic COVID-19 cases caused by the delta variant. The variant is dominant in both the United States and Europe, as well as the UK. Vaccination rates in the U.S. have, however, started to seriously lag behind much of Europe.
Biden has faced increasing pressure to lift the ban but he has so far refused to budge following personal interventions from German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen.
Earlier this month, Von Der Leyen demanded that the travel ban be lifted “within weeks”. Europe has threatened to reimpose a ban on American visitors, citing rising case numbers, but has so far held back from following through with its threat.
Critics claim the travel bans are worthless because the same restrictions aren’t imposed on many countries with higher infections rates. Many European and British citizens wanting to get into the United States first travel to Mexico for 14 days where the infection rate is high and vaccination rate low.
The travel ban was first introduced last year by then-President Trump when Europe was considered the global epicentre of the pandemic. Trump had planned to revoke the ban shortly before leaving office, arguing that a new pre-departure test requirement was a good alternative to the ban.
Biden reimposed the ban in one of his first actions as President and has shown little interest in easing restrictions since.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.