United Airlines lifts international travel ban

Hannah Brooks, Staff writer

United Airlines is expecting a great influx in air traffic, at the rate of about 50% more international inbound passengers, who are now able to fly into the United States again.

The previous international travel restrictions that had been in place have now been lifted as of Nov. 7. Travelers will need to be alert to some concerns, such as long lines, crowding and a potential spike of the COVID-19 virus.

The travel restrictions had been in place for nearly two years, first being implemented in early 2020 to address the spread of COVID-19. Now, vaccinated passengers from overseas will once again be able to fly into the United States. According to Delta Airlines Chief Executive, Ed Bastian, travelers need to be aware that lines will likely be long at the beginning of this change.

In the six weeks since the U.S. reopening was announced, there has been a 450% increase in international point-of-sales bookings versus the six weeks prior to the announcement, according to Delta Airlines.

An official for U.S. Customers and Border Protection also advises travelers to have their documentation ready ahead of time.

The Biden Administration has been taking measures to prepare airlines for the changes that will affect them, especially during the upcoming holiday season. They have held calls with airlines to prepare for additional travelers; they also warned travelers crossing at the Canadian and Mexican borders to prepare for longer wait times beginning on Nov. 7.

According to news sources, countries that were affected by the restrictions in place included China, India, South Africa, Iran, Brazil, Britain, Ireland and the 26 Schengen countries in Europe.

Trade group U.S. Travel says that these countries made up 53% of all overseas travelers to the US in 2019. Border communities also got hit with a hard decline by the loss of people crossing from Mexico and Canada. The group estimates nearly $300 billion lost in export income since March 2020. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and United Airlines President Brett Hard held an event at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport on Monday, Nov. 7 to mark the reopening. U.S. officials also did an Instagram live stream on Nov. 9 to share more information to travelers.

Between the higher demand for flights as compared to 2020 along with it being the holiday season, costs for flight tickets are also on the path to increasing. Already, flight prices are 78% higher than they were at this point in 2020; and 3.2% above where they were in 2019, according to Forbes. Airlines will check vaccination documentation for international travelers. They already have been checking for COVID-19 test results pre-flight.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection will ask travelers if they have been vaccinated and spot-check documentation at land border crossings. Children under 18 are exempt from the vaccine requirements.

Non-tourist children from nearly 50 countries with nationwide vaccination rates of less than 10% will also be exempt from these requirements.

New contract tracing rules were also implemented on Nov. 7, which requires airlines to collect information from international air passengers “to follow up with travelers who have been exposed to COVID-19 variants or other pathogens,” according to news sources.

Though Americans were advised to stay at home for the holidays in 2020, Anthony Faucci, Ph.D, says that it is safe to travel during the holidays in 2021 as long as you are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

If you or someone you know is traveling abroad, especially if it will be during the holiday season, take the necessary precautions in order to ensure that you and your loved ones will be safe.