British Airways witnessed a massive surge in visits to its website on Monday as searches for trips to the United States spiked by 700 per cent in the hours following an announcement by the Biden administration that highly contentious travel restrictions would be lifted after a mammoth 18-months.
British Airways Holidays said holidaymakers had shown particular interest in popular U.S. destinations like New York, Orlando and Las Vegas. Also popular amongst eager visitors banned from entering the United States since March 2020 have been searches for flights and hotels in Miami, Los Angeles and Boston.
On Monday, White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients announced that the Biden administration would reopen international air travel to fully vaccinated foreign citizens from early November, including 33 countries currently subject to travel bans.
The key policy change will allow the full resumption of travel with Europe’s 26 country Schengen zone, as well as the UK, Ireland and a slew of other countries including Brazil, China and India.
British Airways boss Sean Doyle could hardly contain his delight with the news, saying the decision would provide a “huge boost” for the airline. In a statement, Doyle said: “Today’s news, which will see our two nations reunited after more than 18 months apart, marks a historic moment and one which will provide a huge boost to Global Britain as it emerges from this pandemic.”
“We are immensely grateful to the Prime Minister and his Government for all the hard work that’s gone into securing this deal with the US, and which builds upon last Friday’s announcement on the lifting of many travel restrictions. Our customers should now feel that the world is re-opening to them and they can book their trips with confidence.”
Excitement about the shift in policy was mirrored on the other side of the Atlantic with the U.S. Travel Association applauding the Biden administrations’ announcement.
“This is a major turning point in the management of the virus and will accelerate the recovery of the millions of travel-related jobs that have been lost due to international travel restrictions,” commented U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow.
The United States was one of BA’s most important markets before the pandemic and the airline has been banking on the lifting of travel restrictions to supercharge its recovery.
Only fully vaccinated foreign visitors will be allowed to visit the U.S. raising concerns about the equitable distribution of vaccines around the world. Unvaccinated American citizens will still be allowed to travel internationally but they will have to comply with stricter rules including the need to take a COVID-19 test within a day of travel and a second test after travel.
The list of accepted vaccines include: Oxford AstraZeneca, Pfizer / BioNTech (Cominarty), J&J Janssen, and Moderna. The Chinese vaccines from Sinopharm and Sinovac are also likely to be approved but Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine doesn’t appear to have made the grade.
British visitors to the United States will also be able to taker advantage of recently loosened rules for fully vaccinated travelers returning to the UK, although BA wasn’t immediately able to say whether the surge in holiday searches was translating into actual ticket sales.
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.