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  • Writer's pictureMarc Pulisci

White House Finally Lifts Travel Ban As Holidays Come In

This is an article “White House Finally Lifts Travel Ban As Holidays Come In” by Marc Pulisci

Good news to all travel fans! The White House finally announced a more lenient travel policy to push the safe resumption of worldwide travel amid the ongoing health crisis. While COVID-19 cases are still up in some US states due to vaccine hesitation, the proclamation came into effect on November 8. After lifting travel restrictions, the looming travel scene hints at a sudden influx of passengers, which could be a problem for airports worldwide in the coming months.

The administration placed moderate restrictions in lieu of four recent travel bans. Restrictions include full vaccinations for non-citizens and non-immigrants who are flying to the US from overseas. US citizens who are yet to complete their vaccinations may be allowed to enter the country with a few conditions.

All passengers arriving by air will also have to present a negative COVID-19 test result taken three days before their scheduled flights from the respective countries of origin, as well as their vaccination cards.

Among the territories that the US is set to welcome are passengers from the European Union and the UK after actively refusing access to foreign visitors that have been in similar territories like Brazil and South Africa and other COVID-19 active countries. The move marks the first time travel restrictions have had such a level of leniency since being implemented in 2020.

The pandemic’s airline stigma finally ends

The lifting of travel restrictions was most welcomed by struggling airline companies such as Delta, United, and American Airlines, given the massive blows that the pandemic had dealt the industry. With nearly 20 months of meager profitability, airline companies have somehow prepared themselves for long lines and angry passengers come November 8.

Somehow, the telltale signs of economic recovery seen in August last year painted a different picture for the airline industry. Tens of thousands of employees were affected or, worse, let go during the height of the pandemic, which had lasted much longer than expected. The $25 billion budget for airline payrolls from the government did not push through either, despite the push given by labor unions and company executives. The intended benefits package would have ensured employees to keep their jobs during the hiatus, but Congress and the White House failed to sign on a deal.

Before the pandemic, an estimated 10 million employees helped run the US airline industry, including 6 million in the tourism and hospitality sectors. With commercial aviation bringing in $1.7 trillion in US economic activity, the industry suddenly entered a coma as a direct result of the health crisis.

A year and a half later, the industry saw chances of a rebound in the form of leisure travel. Now that business travel has also been green-lit with a few minor conditions, airline companies are confident that more passengers will book flights and resume their usual travel itineraries despite higher ticket rates.

Reopening tourism gateways

As expected, international visitors from several countries made a beeline for the US on November 8 as many reunited with their family and friends after over 86 weeks of separation.

Elsewhere, long queues greeted airport personnel in Canada as early as dawn, as people booked flights to Europe and the UK. The same busy occurrence is the same at the Mexican border. Every year before the pandemic, an estimated 350 million people would cross the US-Mexico border, making it the busiest country-to-country intersection in the world.

Bookings continue to rise significantly as the holiday season reaches its peak, with United Airlines anticipating a 50% increase in inbound passengers this month. Delta Airlines also reported full flights after the travel ban lifting and expect to stay more robust in the coming weeks. Fortunately, airline industry experts predicted that people will still take their flights, even if ticket prices have quadrupled since the pandemic owing to higher demand.

Flight schedules are still lower than usual for most airlines, with United at a 69% flight rate compared to its total regular flights in 2019, but expect to increase to 87% by year end. American Airlines had also doubled its international flights compared to last year, but is still at a low 28% compared to its total flights before the pandemic struck.

What you need to know before traveling

Non US citizens entering the country must have vaccinations with their second doses administered at least two weeks before their departure from their country of origin. Airline personnel will be checking their physical or digital documentation of their vaccinations. At the moment, only Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca, Covishield, Sinopharm, and Sinovac vaccinations will be accepted.

Aside from vaccination documents, inbound passengers will be required to have a negative COVID-19 test result taken within three days prior to their arrival in the US – a requirement implemented in January. Passengers who are unvaccinated must take rapid antigen or PCR tests within one day of their departure.

The White House has also released a few exemptions for the new travel policy, including the entry of passengers below 18 years. Officials announced the exemption, considering some have yet to allow vaccinations for minors. International inbound passengers over two years-old and traveling with vaccinated parents or guardians are allowed entry, provided the minors present a negative COVID-19 test result.

Visitors from countries with low availability of vaccines and those who have not taken their shots due to existing medical conditions but with medical clearances are also welcome and exempted from the standing travel policy.

For US citizens flying to another country, no vaccination requirements are in order but would still have to present a negative rapid antigen or PCR test result taken within a day before departure.

With both business and tourism travel opening up airports anew, people worldwide are bracing for a long overdue semblance of normalcy. Hospitality and tourism establishments are likewise preparing for significant numbers of visitors, but have hiked up their prices to regain lost profit. With the holiday season now upon us, there’s no doubt that travelers can expect more delays, inconvenience, and a general sense of tension in airports starting next month.


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