Sport Airlines in U.S., U.K. Increasing Flights as Travel Rules Ease for International Residents
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Airlines in the U.S. and U.K. are boosting the number of flights as travel restrictions for international residents imposed during the COVID-19 pandemic begin to loosen, the Associated Press reported.
The U.S. on Monday lifted restrictions from a wide range of countries, including Mexico, Canada and most of Europe, effectively reversing the travel ban that separated families, rooted tourists and halted business travelers as the world sought to curb the global spread of the virus.
Easing of COVID travel restrictions lets loved ones reunite
For Erin Tridle and her boyfriend, it was love at first sight. They met while the American was traveling in France in the summer of 2019. They said, “I love you,” on day two. “People tell us it's like something from a movie,” she said. When Tridle returned home to Los Angeles, they began a long-distance relationship, spending time together when they could. Then the pandemic hit, separating them indefinitely as countries locked down travel. “The uncertainty of not knowing when we would be together again was one of the hardest things I've even been through,” Tridle said.
American citizens and permanent residents were not barred from the U.S. even before the restrictions were lifted Monday. The new rules require travelers to show proof of vaccination and a negative COVID-19 test in order to enter the U.S. Anyone crossing land borders into the U.S. from Mexico or Canada must show proof of vaccination, but no negative test is required, AP reported.
The changes have spurred airlines to make preparations for an anticipated rise in the number of people making travel plans. Flights between the U.S. and U.K. alone are projected to increase 21 percent this month, according to data from the travel and analytics firm Cirium.
For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below.
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The United States is flinging its doors wide open to vaccinated international travelers on Monday, welcoming many visitors who've been shut out of the country for 20 months. © Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Images An aerial view shows the skyline of lower Manhattan, New York city on August 5, 2021. (Photo by Ed JONES / AFP) (Photo by ED JONES/AFP via Getty Images) With new requirements going into effect for air, land and ferry arrivals, there's bound to be some congestion as the rules are rolled out.
Wives will hug husbands for the first time in months. Grandmas will coo over grandsons who have doubled in age since they last saw them. Aunts and uncles and cousins will snuggle babies they haven't met yet.
"I'm going to jump into his arms, kiss him, touch him," Gaye Camara said of the husband in New York she has not seen since before COVID-19 brought the fly-here-there-and-everywhere world to a halt.
"Just talking about it makes me emotional," Camara, 40, said as she wheeled her luggage through Paris' Charles de Gaulle airport, which could almost be mistaken for its pre-pandemic self, busy with humming crowds, albeit in face masks.
When Camara last saw Mamadou, her husband, in January 2020, they had no way of knowing that they'd have to wait 21 months before holding each other again. She lives in France's Alsace region, where she works as a secretary. He is based in New York.
"It was very hard at the beginning. I cried nearly every night," she said.
Airlines in U.S., U.K. Increasing Flights as Travel Rules Ease for International Residents
Flights between the U.S. and U.K. alone are projected to increase 21 percent this month, according to a travel analytics firm.The U.S. on Monday lifted restrictions from a wide range of countries, including Mexico, Canada and most of Europe, effectively reversing the travel ban that separated families, rooted tourists and halted business travelers as the world sought to curb the global spread of the virus.
Video calls, text messages, phone conversations kept them connected—but couldn't fill the void of separation.
"I cannot wait," she said. "Being with him, his presence, his face, his smile."
In a sign of the huge importance of trans-Atlantic travel for airlines, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic celebrated the reopening by synchronizing the departures of their early-morning flights to New York on parallel runways at London's Heathrow Airport. BA CEO Sean Doyle was aboard his company's plane.
"Together, even as competitors, we have fought for the safe return of trans-Atlantic travel—and now we celebrate that achievement as a team. Some things are more important than one-upmanship, and this is one of those things," Doyle wrote in a message to customers, noting that the flight carried the number that used to belong to the supersonic Concorde.
For Martine Kerherve, being separated from loved ones in the United States was filled with worries that they might not survive the pandemic that has killed more than 5 million people worldwide.
"We told ourselves that we could die without seeing each other," said Kerherve, who was heading for Fort Lauderdale, Florida, from Paris. "We all went through periods of depression, anxiety."
Airlines in U.S., U.K. Increasing Flights as Travel Rules Ease for International Residents
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Before the pandemic, it was a trip Kerherve and her partner, Francis Pasquier, would make once or twice a year. When they lost that, "we lost our bearings," Pasquier said.
Maria Giribet, meanwhile, has not seen her twin grandchildren Gabriel and David for about half of their lives. Now 3 1/2, the boys are in San Francisco, which during the height of the pandemic might as well have been another planet for 74-year-old Giribet, who lives on the Mediterranean isle of Majorca.
"I'm going to hug them, suffocate them, that's what I dream of," Giribet said after checking in for her flight. A widow, she lost her husband to a lengthy illness before the pandemic and her three grown children all live abroad.
"I found myself all alone," said Giribet, who was flying for the first time in her life by herself.
The change will also have a profound effect on the U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada, where traveling back and forth was a way of life until the pandemic hit and the U.S. shut down nonessential travel.
Malls, restaurants and Main Street shops in U.S. border towns have been devastated by the lack of visitors from Mexico. On the boundary with Canada, cross-border hockey rivalries that were community traditions were upended. Churches that had members on both sides of the border are hoping to welcome parishioners they haven't seen in nearly two years.
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River Robinson's American partner wasn't able to be in Canada for the birth of their baby boy 17 months ago. She was thrilled to hear about the U.S. reopening.
"I'm planning to take my baby down for the American Thanksgiving," said Robinson, who lives in St. Thomas, Ontario. "If all goes smoothly at the border, I'll plan on taking him down as much as I can."
It's "crazy to think he has a whole other side of the family he hasn't even met yet," she added.
The U.S. will accept travelers who have been fully vaccinated with any of the shots approved for emergency use by the World Health Organization, not just those in use in the U.S. That's a relief for many in Canada, where the AstraZeneca vaccine is widely used.
But millions of people around the world who were vaccinated with Russia's Sputnik V, China's CanSino or others not OK'd by thewon't be able to travel to the U.S.
The moves come as the U.S. has seen its COVID-19 outlook improve dramatically in recent weeks since the summer Delta surge that pushed hospitals to the brink in many locations.
Those in the travel industry hope it will provide a boost after COVID-19 travel bans brought the sector to its knees.
Travel agent Francis Legros, flying from Paris to a travel industry convention in Las Vegas, jetted off determined to breathe life back into his company.
"We are rebuilding," he said. "It's a new chapter, a new professional life."
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