President Joe Biden will revive international air travel with the United Kingdom and much of Europe, as well as a slew of other countries subject to tight restrictions White House coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients announced on Monday.
The White House will set out a series of measures to replace the 212(f) travel restrictions including restricting entry to the United States only to fully vaccinated travelers alongside a new contact tracing system.
The current system of pre-departure COVID-19 testing is also likely to remain in place as part of a robust plan to reopen international travel with countries that already have higher vaccination rates and lower infection rates than the United States.
The Trump era restrictions have been in place for 18-months and have proved to be a major bone of contention between the European Commission and Washington DC. The British government has also failed to get the restrictions lifted on a number of occasions without success.
The UK’s transport minister, Grant Shapps celebrated the decision to lift the travel ban, saying in a tweet that it was down to “brilliant collaboration through our UK/US working group” that was announced during the G7 conference in Cornwall several months ago.
British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle hailed the “historic moment” saying in a statement: “Today’s news, which will see our two nations reunited after more than 18 months apart, marks an 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”.
The early November date for reopening tallied up with previous anonymous briefings that the travel ban would be lifted in time for Thanksgiving 2021.
Under the current system, only American citizens and limited exceptions are allowed to travel to the United States from Europe’s Schengen zone, as well as Ireland and the UK. Foreigners who have spent the last 14-days in these jurisdictions are banned from entering the U.S.
Then-President Trump wanted to lift the restrictions just before leaving office but Biden reversed that decision shortly after taking office. The President has since justified keeping the restrictions citing delts variant concerns.
Critics have ridiculed the 212(f) travel restrictions because they don’t prevent Americans traveling to and from the United States and potentially bringing back new COVID-19 variants. Nor does the travel ban stop travelers from countries with much higher infection rates and lower vaccine takeup entering the U.S.
The new system will also allow the U.S. to fully reopen to Canada and Mexico, as well as other travel ban countries such as India and Brazil, and even China.
Further details, such as which vaccines would be accepted and any exceptions weren’t immediately made available.
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.